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Skywater by Island Sky Corporation: Out of thin air – making clean, drinkable water from the atmosphere

The second element most precious to human life after oxygen is water. While Earth is more than 80 percent water, only a small percentage of that is fit for human consumption and with global warming, persistent droughts and increasing pollution, the planet’s water supply is in jeopardy.

Based in Florida, Island Sky Corporation is changing the way we think about water one drop at a time with Skywater. Using patented adiabatic distillation technology, Skywater’s signature air-to-water generators harvest water vapor that readily exists in the air. Through this technology, Skywater is providing thousands of gallons of low-cost, high-quality drinking water to people in every corner of the world.

David Hertz Greenbuild 2016

David Hertz

Preserving and finding new ways to replenish the world’s water supply is a focal point of this year’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Los Angeles. David Hertz of The Studio of Environmental Architecture (S.E.A.) will be presenting a G04 talk on the origins of atmospheric water generation and the global, regional and local issues effecting water and the water crisis in California and beyond.

US Builders Review learned more from Richard Groden, founder and president of Island Sky Corporation, to understand Skywater and what this technology can do to help solve the global water shortage.

What is atmospheric water generation?

Atmospheric water generation certainly sounds complex, but in fact, it’s an ancient technique that has been used for centuries. “We’re harnessing an ancient technique, but doing it in a new, more efficient way,” explains Groden. “This is something the Incas and Aztecs were doing. They would string long nets up in the mountains to collect the dew from the fog and this water would drain down into troughs which they would bring down to their cities.”

The age-old technique is quite simple. Water vapor in the air (naturally occurring humidity) is converted to water. “Skywater replicates the natural process of condensation by simulating the dew point; as vapor cools it condenses and drops, producing water,” says Groden.

Air is drawn through the vents in Skywater machines and then passes through the condensation chamber. There the vapor is converted from gas to liquid (water) through patented adiabatic distillation process. “All machines are equipped with an electro-statically charged air filter to remove impurities from the air. The water is treated with ozone to kill bacteria and microbes and run through a carbon filter. We also have an optional mineral filter,” says Groden.

How much water exists in the atmosphere?

Surprisingly enough, the answer is a lot. There are approximately 3,100 cubic miles of water in the atmosphere which equates to 37.5 million billion gallons of water. That is enough water to fill the Great Lakes or cover the entire surface of the Earth with 1-inch of rain. “With groundwater rapidly depleting, the most available source of fresh, drinkable water is actually in the atmosphere,” says Groden.

Furthermore, water vapor is a truly unlimited resource because it is constantly replenished by nature’s hydrologic cycle. “This means we can continue to extract water from the air indefinitely without impacting the planet,” he adds.

Skywater Greenbuild 2016

What inspired Skywater?

Island Sky Corporation which produces the Skywater machines was established in 2004 by Groden. Groden’ s general contracting background took him all over the Western Hemisphere, doing large-scale hotel remodels on Miami Beach and down into the high-end, luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

“My team was hired to do a renovation job in Mustique, a tiny island that is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at the Cotton House, a world-famous resort,” recounts Groden. “When we got there we found out the island was dry — there was no source of drinking water. Noticing the amount of condensate that was produced by the air conditioners in the humid environment, I got the inspiration to build a machine that made water from air.”

Can you walk us through the different Skywater products?

Today Skywater’ s custom-built original equipment manufacturer (OEM) water-making machines perform at different levels, delivering fresh water in any capacity from 5 gallons all the way to 1,500 gallons per day. They are ideal for a home or office, light industrial and commercial applications, greenhouses and agricultural facilities and disaster relief situations.

The Skywater 300 is the company’s high-volume machine, pumping out more than 300 gallons of water a day in warm humid conditions. “Our water systems can be fully powered by solar panels and passively generates clean water, making it an ideal off-the-grid solution for green building,” says Groden. “A Skywater unit can help contribute to a project’s LEED scorecard. We’re looking into doing more in terms of water credits, just like carbon credits.”

For remote locations and emergency situations, the Skywater ESU-20 is ready to deliver up to 900 gallons of pure drinking water daily, running off a 30-kilowatt electric diesel generator. “We have brought our units out to many disaster zones, working with the Red Cross to bring much-needed drinking water,” says Groden. “After the Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines our machines were set in place and they immediately began making water for the thirsty, homeless victims of the storm.”

Groden sees Skywater as a tool to bring water to disaster zones and in countries facing water scarcity. Skywater is also a step to a water-neutral future, where more water is created than consumed.

By capturing water resources that exist in the air, Skywater is tapping into a fairly uncomplicated technology and the result is an efficient way to address the global water shortage.

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