Water from air: Source Global targets Gulf region for latest bottled water projects

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Source Global's hydropanels used in luxuary resort in Dubai, UAE ©Source Global
Source Global's hydropanels used in luxuary resort in Dubai, UAE ©Source Global

Related tags Middle east Renewable energy Water Food security

The firm that extracts moisture from air and turns it into drinking water is eyeing projects in the Gulf to target the water scarcity issues in the region.

US-based Source Global (previously Zero Mass Water) is expected to complete its plant in Lahbab (UAE) by the end of this year, with an estimated production volume of 1.5 million litres of drinking water annually.

The firm is planning to carry out projects in Egypt and Morocco in the next 12 months. In the Middle East, it has 30 projects in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Cyprus, with more than 2,500 hydropanels operating to produce drinking water.

Vahid Fotuhi, who is Source Global’s vice president for Middle East and Africa, told FoodNavigator-Asia​ that water scarcity was a serious issue in the Middle East region.

He cited a recent report by the World Resource Institute that highlighted 17 countries globally experiencing severe water scarcity, of which 12 were in the Middle East and North Africa regions.

Because of global warming, water scarcity is becoming an issue and more people are facing problems with clean water access. Our technology provides a very sustainable solution because you are not using fossil fuels, there is no need to lay expensive pipes to get to different corners of the region. So, this technology is scalable and easy to deploy​.”

We're seeing more demand and we expect to grow significantly in the Middle East and North Africa region in the next few years​.”

In the UAE, its Lahbab plant will start with about 1,000 hydropanels, and eventually build up to 10,000.

Water from air technology

The hydropanel works by pulling moisture from the air using fans, and the moisture is pushed through a hygroscopic material which absorbs the water molecules and channels it into a reservoir.

This moisture is converted into water, which is than mineralised with magnesium and calcium to give the refreshing crisp taste similar to premium bottled water. It is entirely powered with sunlight.

According to Fotuhi, the technology is entirely off-grid, all it needs is about 8% humidity and sunlight to start producing drinking water. The yield is dependent on the humidity. UAE has an average humidity of 50%.

Currently in UAE, most of the drinking water is either desalinated or imported from Europe. Desalination is the costly process of obtaining water from the sea and goes through a thermal or membrane treatment to produce clean drinking water.

While the water produced from this technology is more expensive than tap water, Fotuhi said it was similar to bottled water cost-wise. He added that it was also cheaper than imported water.

Source Global is currently working with IBV, an UAE-based company which will bottle the water and distribute to the HORECA industry in UAE.

Fotuhi told us the firm is looking to work with partners who will purchase on a long-term basis.

They can do the bottling, distribution, or purchase for their own internal requirements​. If they want to sell it as a retail product, we can work with them on that.

If they want to replace their own plastic bottle consumption and looking to becoming more sustainable, we can work with them to bottle the products in glass bottles​.” This is the case for IBV.

Future of water

According to Fotuhi, the company’s mission is to bring drinking water for everyone and everywhere, no matter how remote it may be.

As water independence and resilience becomes a priority, Source Global has seen rising interest in its technology.

The company recently raised US$50 million, which would be used to accelerate R&D activities and make its Source hydropanel more efficient.

More efficient means producing even more water, so it can be deployed in more places around the world​,” Fotuhi said.

Source Global’s technology has been deployed in 45 countries around the world, including its home country, South America (Columbia, Mexico), Europe, Africa (Zambia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda), India and Australia.

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