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Water from nowhere

United Nations Development Programme - Alleviating drought in Ethiopia

Beautiful sculptures begin to pop-up in rural Ethiopia. They brighten eyes and hearts not only for aesthetics, but for their purpose: to bring water to those without; sparing communities from hour-long walks in search of springs and water sources. They are the Warka Water towers, named after native fig trees in the region.

The invention by Italian architects Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler solves two challenges that affect many regions with water scarcity: the difficulty in finding it, and contamination levels that render it undrinkable. “Building something like a well is not easy. To find water, we need to drill as much as 490 metres”, Vittori explains. “Also, the pumps need electricity to run, as well as access to spares in case something goes wrong”, which is technically difficult and expensive.

More than good design

Although each structure has a height of 10 metres, they are extremely lightweight and are built manually. The combination of reeds or bamboo with recycled plastic uses condensation to collect dew droplets that trickle down, and then stores them in a container at the bottom of the tower. The water in the container then passes through a tube that acts as a tap, carrying it towards the storage tanks below.

In numbers

Each tower costs about $500 but can be built in less than a week by a team of four people. Not bad for equipment which can supply about 100 litres of water per day – but prices could be even lower if they were mass produced. That’s why the team is looking for investors interested in spreading the technology to the entire region.

Want to find out more? Check out their website

Words by Scheila Silveira

Picture: ‘Alleviating drought in Ethiopia’ United Nations Development Programme

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