Making water from air is going mainstream in South Florida

Technology could ease stress on the environment

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COOPER CITY, Fla. – Despite our plentiful rainfall in South Florida, Mother Nature may be not a match for man.

When it comes to the demands on our water supply, Florida Atlantic University Engineering Professor Amir Abtahi said, "We are at the edge of stability." 

In the search for solutions to our water crisis, a seemingly simple device could play a role.

Moisture from the air is processed through a special filtration system to remove impurities, producing up to 5 gallons of water a day.

"It's like a dehumidifier," said Doug Marcille, CEO of Atmospheric Water Solutions in Cooper City.

The technology for creating water from air has been around for years in different forms. 

In 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent  $1 million on two tractor-trailers that  were convertered into water-from-air generators for disaster relief, but it wasn't intended for everyday use.

"What we've done is improved on it and taken it to a whole new level," Marcille said.

Marcille's  "Aqua-Boy" machines are prepped for delivery from the company's Cooper City warehouse to homes and businesses all over the state, the country and the world.

"We're way past the ‘believe-it-or-not' stage and consumer awareness is increasing," he said.

The concept piqued the interest of Key Biscayne Village Manager Andrea Agah.

"We said, ‘How does it taste? How does it work?'" she said.

Three machines now generate drinking water at the Village Hall complex, addressing both environmental and economic concerns.

"We ran some of the numbers and the cost savings is about a 75 percent reduction to the village in the long run by using this technology," Agah said.

Coral Gables resident Dan Levine put one in his home at the prodding of his eco-conscious kids.

"As long as you have power, you can generate water using these machines," Levine said.

But the technology does have its limitations.

"They're more effective in humid areas than in dry areas because you have to have moisture in the air for these to work," he said. 

While making water from air won't solve large-scale shortages, experts say it could help ease some of the burden on our water supply.

"For drinking water, that is the way to go," Abtahi said.

Engineering students at FAU are currently working on a solar-powered water-from-air machine that would be portable and wouldn't require electricity or gas-powered generators.

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