Imagine how different your life would be if you had to spend four to six hours every day just collecting water for your family to drink. Now, imagine even after all of that time and effort, that water isn’t even clean. This is an unfortunate reality for most of the people living in sub-Sahara Africa, a problem that Warka Water Towers has set out to solve with their water bamboo tower. (1) This technology, which went viral in 2015, is fascinating. Read on to learn more.
WarkaWater Bamboo Towers
Sourcing potable drinking water for the nearly 1 billion people in Africa without it is a problem that many groups have attempted to solve. The issue is that many of the solutions require a large financial investment, specialized equipment, and repairs are frequent, costly, and difficult.
Practicality and convenience are the driving factors behind WarkaWater. These bamboo towers are cost-effective, easy to assemble, and can collect up to 26 gallons of water per day right out of the air. (2) WarkaWater knows that providing accessible, clean water for people does more than just provide clean drinking water. (3) Their bamboo towers also provide an opportunity for:
- A safe living environment
- Time for women and parents to care for their children and families
- Children to go to school
- Decreased infant mortality
- Improvements to the local economy
- Preservation of local community culture
- Restore the ecosystem
“It’s not just illnesses that we’re trying to address. Many Ethiopian children from rural villages spend several hours every day to fetch water, time they could invest for more productive activities and education,” says lead designer Arturo Vittori. “If we can give people something that lets them be more independent, they can free themselves from this cycle.”
A Bamboo Tower Collecting Water From Thin Air
The Warka Water bamboo tower is 30 feet tall and 13 feet wide and covered in latticed bamboo lined with orange polyester mesh. On the top stands reflective pieces to deter birds. The orange mesh is water-resistant to better collect fog from the atmosphere.
Designer Vittori is currently researching materials for the latest prototype that loses heat quickly to maximize the small window of time each day when dew forms. This will optimize the amount of water that the towers can collect.
The Meaning Behind “Warka”
The Warka tree is a giant fig tree native to Ethiopia. These trees are highly important to the community because they provide shade, food, and a gathering place. This is what inspired the name for Warka Water. Vittori and his team at Architecture and Vision want the bamboo towers to provide something similar:
- A gathering place
- Clean drinking water
The goal is to build them in all remote communities in Ethiopia and then on to the rest of Africa so that all villages will have access to healthy, clean drinkable water.
Cost and Practicality of the Bamboo Water Tower
One of the reasons that make WarkaWater such an incredible innovation is its cost and practicality. The details include:
- $1000 to produce
- No electricity required
- Takes less than one hour to assemble
- Easily packed up and moved as needed
- SImple to train locals to take care of and repair if necessary
The WarkaWater towers require no specialized equipment or mechanics to come and do complicated repairs, making them a truly sustainable way to improve the quality of life in remote Ethiopian villages.
Other WarkaWater Projects
WarkaWater doesn’t just want to solve the problem of potable drinking water in these remote African communities. They have several projects on the go with the ultimate goal of making people’s lives better. (4)
This is an integrated village designed to house in-need local ethnic groups of 100 people in Cameroon. They will be constructed using local, natural materials, and indigenous techniques to preserve and protect the cultural identity of the place while allowing people to live with dignity. The whole idea is to have the people live in harmony with the nature around them.
Warka houses are inspired by traditional African houses with the goal of maintaining their cultural features but improving on the actual quality of living. Built with local, natural materials, these homes have higher hygiene and comfort standards thanks to:
- Insulated floors
- Rain and waterproof roofs
- Natural ventilation
- A fresh, healthy, comfortable indoor environment
Beyond safe drinking water, the people in these villages need access to safe washing water and waste systems. Warka Sanitation is toilets and washing facilities that provide just that.
Each toilet has a separate outlet for urine and for solid waste. Soil is then added instead of flushing to dry out the waste faster so it can be used as manure.
The urine is diluted and used as a natural fertilizer.
This is a community kitchen. It provides everyone in the community with a safe, clean, and controlled space for food preparation. It also acts as a social space for people to eat and be together. Warka Kitchen pays particularly close attention to design and sanitation systems to ensure the safety and health of everyone who eats and cooks there.
The Warka Garden is a community garden with the goal of providing healthy, fresh food for everyone in the community. It has an efficient irrigation system to optimize water usage, a nursery to grow seedlings, and a seed bank to protect indigenous species.
Lastly, Warka Garden can potentially provide a revenue stream for the community, because it provides them with beautiful, fresh produce to sell at the local markets.
Providing a community with power can bring about lasting, positive change for a community. Having electricity via solar power allows for community members to participate in safe, after-dark activities and can provide them with mobile phone access.
Using recycled water from Warka Towers, the goal of Warka Forest is to replant new trees to rejuvenate the ecosystem as well as provide food from fruit trees. Trees can also provide wood for construction materials and kitchen fires. Trees will also capture carbon dioxide from the air and provide cleaner air.
Culture A Porter
This is a long-term collaboration between WarkaWater and the community to help them promote their culture and empower their local economy. They will make unedited handicrafts from the Warka Village to sell on the international market.
How You Can Help
WarkaWater has set out to make a lasting impact on communities in Africa that need it the most. If you wish to support their endeavors, you can donate to them here.