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This Remote Village in Palawan Pulls Drinking Water Out of Thin Air

It's like magic.
IMAGE SOURCE Hydropanels
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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” wrote science-fiction writer Arthur Clarke. 

That is exactly what is happening in Binta’t Karis, a small village in a remote mountain in Palawan. For many decades, the residents of Binta’t Karis had no access to potable water. 

The community of Binta’t Karis is approximately a five-hour drive from the nearest major city and located in the protected area of Mount Mantalingahan, the highest point on the Philippines’ fifth-largest island. 

Photo by Source Hydropanel.

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The areas around Mt. Matalingahan have limited water infrastructure, most of which is powered by gravity to reach communities at the base of the mountains. The people at Binta’t Karis, who live at a higher elevation, have no access to this. They used to dig deep holes at riverbanks to get water, which they put inside heavy containers to carry back home to the mountain. During the dry season, the river dries up, which is their only source of water. 

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But now, Binta’t Karis produces drinking water out of thin air, like magic. It’s all thanks to Source and Conservation International, who partnered with each other to install hydropanels in the village. 

Water Created From Sunlight and Air

Villagers at Binta’t Karis are able to pull drinking water out of thin air thanks to technology in the hydropanels, which utilizes sunlight and air to produce clean drinking water. The hydropanels are off-grid and rely only on solar power.

“SOURCE Hydropanels make drinking water using only sunlight and air as inputs, made possible by the combination of thermodynamics, materials science, and controls technology,” says Neil Grimmer, Brand President of SOURCE Global PBC.

Sunlight also creates an optimal thermodynamic environment inside the hydropanels for water harvesting.

Photo by Source Hydropanel.

 “The hydropanels take in ambient air through its fans. Water vapor from the air is absorbed onto a proprietary hygroscopic material.  The water vapor desorbs as the airflow passes through a condenser and the resulting liquid flows into the reservoir,” Grimmer tells Esquire Philippines.

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As water is collected in the hydropanels, it is mineralized and treated with ozone. Every glass of water is clean, safe, and pollutant-free. 

“No need of outside infrastructure and water is consistently monitored for quality,” says Grimmer. 

Source Hydropanel Arrays

Photo by Source Hydropanels.

Photo by Source Hydropanels.

The SOURCE Hydropanel array will create more than 40,000 liters of renewable drinking water each year, powered only by sunshine, for the 100 students, teachers and their families at the Binta’t Karis Elementary School. 

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This will offset more than two million plastic water bottles, and will markedly improve the health and quality of life for local residents.

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Global nonprofit climate-tech accelerator Elemental Excelerator funded the grant supporting the effort, and both the United States Embassy in Manila and the national government were instrumental in expediting the installation.

Photo by Source Hydropanel.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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