Warka Water is an experimental project, it is vertical structure created by the Italian studio ‘Architecture and Vision’ (AV). It is designed to harvest potable water from the atmosphere providing sustainable and affordable water sources to remote communities in the rural Ethiopia that are facing water poverty issues. It is realized with biodegradable materials and conceived to integrate visually and aesthetically into the traditional villages. Although it is still in an exploratory phase, the aim is to collect an average up to 100 liters of potable water a day. It is designed to be easily built and maintained by local villagers without electrical tools. AV believes that WW can be a stepping-stone that empowers communities to build greater independence. Beyond providing potable water, the target is to invigorate the local economy through manufacturing the towers locally and provide women and children opportunities to invest their time in care, education and other productive activities.
Italian Development Cooperation - EthiopiaLead applicant
Italian Cultural Institute in Addis Abeba - EthiopiaInitiative partner
The Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development - EthiopiaInitiative partner
Università Iuav di Venezia - ItalyInitiative partner
Architecture and Vision - ItalyInitiative partner
Architettura e Design
Air always contains a certain amount of water, which means water can be taken directly and locally from the environment. Warka Water aims to empower water-poor communities with the ability to produce clean water from the atmosphere using a passive system (no energy consumption) and natural phenomena (gravity and condensation). The Warka tower is designed for multiple harvesting methods – rain, fog and dew – and is estimated to collect, in a year avarage, up to 100 liters of water a day.
The WW inspired by several sources. Various plants and animals in nature have evolved abilities of harvesting water from the air to survive in the most hostile environments on Earth thanks to the geometry and to a unique micro - and nano-scale structural features on their surfaces. By studying the Namib beetle’s, the Lotus flower’s leaves, the spider’s web treads and the integrated fog collection system in cactus, we are defining specific materials with special coatings able to enhance the dew condensation phenomena, to catch fog and rain water and to store it. The natural airflow system has been inspired by the structure of the termite hives. We also looked at local cultures, incorporating Ethiopian traditional artisanal and construction techniques still visible in the in the vernacular architecture and the basket-weaving skills.
Ethiopia is endowed with abundant natural resources and showcases a wide range of altitudinal and climatic variation, from deserts to rainforests. This diversity in agroecology enables the country to produce numerous kinds of crops and livestock. Nevertheless, Ethiopia has limited water supply systems and road infrastructure in place, and the country has suffered from recurring droughts that caused food shortages in the last 20 years. Ethiopia’s major health problem is the spread of diseases caused by the lack of water and sanitation. Only 44% of the general population has access to safe drinking water. In rural areas, that drops to just 34% (WHO/UNICEF March 2012). Water quality is very poor and often contaminated by human and animal waste. The impact on the health of communities is shocking – an estimated number of 54,000 children die each year directly from diarrhoeal and 217,000 more die from related illnesses, such as malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria (UNICEF February 2012)
The WW project began in 2012 by the Italian studio ‘Architecture and Vision’ with the support of external collaborators. The concept has evolved since and tested with 9 full-scale prototypes built, an updated version is currently under development. Moreover the project has been constructed for test and temporary show in different countries in 3 continents. The main tests and research activities are conducted in a rural location in central Italy, with full scale prototypes and materials samples. This ongoing activity of daily experiments has brought the project to important results. In parallel the selection of potential sites in Ethiopia to locate the first pilot prototype is started. The main characteristic of the site will be the lack of potable water and the urgency for the community living in that area for a solution. Other important factors are related to the local environment characteristics such as pressure, average temperatures, humidity, dew point and precipitations.
Warka Water is conceived for remote rural villages in Ethiopia. The villagers live in a beautiful natural environment but often without running water, electricity, a toilet or a shower. To survive here, women and children walk everyday for miles towards shallow and unprotected ponds, where the water is often contaminated with human and animal waste, parasites, and diseases. They collect the water using dry carved pumpkins and carry the water back in old plastic containers, which are extremely heavy. With Warka Water, women and children can invest their time in care, education and other socially productive activities. Furthermore, the Warka tower design includes a canopy that is built around the structure, which will provide shade and a social gathering place for the entire community.
The project is being developed by the Italian studio ‘Architecture and Vision’ with the support of external collaborators. A wide team collaborated in the completion of the prior prototypes. The 3.1 version team members are
- Arturo Vittori - Architect - Founder
- Gianni Massironi - Scenographer - Executive Director
- Raffi Tchakerian - Industrial Desiner - Project Manager
- Precious Desperts - Fashion Designer - Construction Team Leader
- Andrea Awaida - Architecture Graduate Student - Communication
- Elias Farah - Architecture Graduate Student - Visual Artist.
- Mark Svejda - Attorney- Legal Advisor
- Jina Bae - Entrepreneur - Financial Advisor
- Pavel Chmátal - Technology Manager - Technology Transfer Advisor
- Tadesse Girmay Gebreegziabher - Architect - Local Project Manager
Local: Italian Development Cooperation in Ethiopia
Technical: - Autodesk - McNeel Rhinoceros - Maxon.
We are facing various challenges during WW's development. For the structure we are working to create a tall, lightweight and self-supporting one without compromising the ground with excavation or earth movement. The intention is also to build WW out of natural, sustainable and biodegradable material using a simple, low-tech and ecological approach. It took nearly four months to design and build the first prototype. We are focused on finding easy and effective ways that the tower can be autonomously built and maintained by the villagers. After a number of iterations, our latest prototype is 10m-tall and only 60kg in weight, consisting of 5 modules that can be assembled by 6 people without using scaffolding. In parallel we have conducted experiments to improve the water collection not only by the geometry and shape but also experimenting with several sets of material and coating in various environments - arid, coastal and vegetal - to optimize the water harvesting capability and quality
WW mainly uses local and natural biodegradable materials. The set up doesn’t required excavation works or ground modification. It is a temporarily structure designed to not leave traces on the environment after removal. It doesn’t extract water from the ground. Moreover, water generated by the Warka tower can also be used for irrigation, reforestation, and ecosystem regeneration. As part of training local villagers, we plan to institute a water management program that teaches the best practices of using, distributing and recycling harvested water. Through this program, we hope the villagers can understand our relationship with the environment and move away from the “slash-and-burn” agriculture, which is responsible for the deforestation.
The WW project is currently in the R&D phase, the first test pilots scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2015. Once the project will be fully developed, we believe incorporating the tower in remote villages can lead to numerous impactful initiatives:
–Education:Women and children can engage in productive activities such as care, education and crafts that can lead to self-sufficiency
–Economy:Manufacturing the tower locally and sourcing indigenous materials can create jobs and boost the local economy
–Society:The tower’s canopy creates a gathering place for the community
–Agriculture: Water produced by the Warka tower can be used for irrigation and farming
–Environment: the water management training program can introduce the principles of permaculture
–Technology: Future developments include a shared internet connection point for rural villages, which can connect the isolated communities and bring valuable realtime information (e.g., weather forecast, market prices of crops).
WW can be fabricated locally in series and distributed as kit of parts. It can be easily transported without need of vehicles and built and maintained by the local communities using simple tools. With training and guidance, the locals can easily assemble WW in a few hours and maintain the Warka tower without the support of external people. This local know-how can then be transferred to surrounding communities, with villagers helping install other towers in the area and creating an economy based on the assembly and maintenance of the towers. This can expedite the scaling of Warka Water in the region. Following the prototype development and testing phases, we intend to start manufacturing the WW on a large scale, which can bring the material’s cost down to $1000 per tower significantly less than other water relief options available.