Residents on a small island off the coast of Belize have begun harvesting fresh drinking water from the air after shipments from the mainland were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents of Caye Caulker Island, 20 miles off the coast of Belize City, are using 23 solar-powered hydropanels from Zero Mass Water to convert moisture in the air into potable water.
The hydropanels use a similar set of principles as dehumidifiers to harvest water, drawing in air into a compartment with fans, where it's heated by the solar panels to convert the water molecules into steam.
Residents on Caye Caulker Island off the coast of Belize are relying on 23 solar-powered hydropanels for drinking water, which transform water molecules in the air into liquid water
The steam is passed through a special hygroscopic material that channels it into a collection reservoir where it's cooled into liquid water, according to a report in Newsweek.
The panels were initially installed on the roof of the local Roman Catholic School and Community Center in later 2019 as part of the Caribbean Climate Smart Island Program, and funded in part by the Inter-American Developmeent Bank.
According to Zero Mass, they can produce around around 911 gallons a month under optimal conditions, or the equivalent of about 30 gallons a day.
Caye Caulker is just five miles long and one mile across, and was formed by a mix of sand and limestone coral that does a relatively poor job of filtering salt from water that's drawn into the ground from the sea.
As a result, locals relied mostly on large shipments of bottled water that came by cargo ship from the mainland.
The hydropanels, developed by Zero Mass Water, cost between $5,500 and $6,500 for a two-panel unit, and the 23 units installed on Caye Caulker will produce an estimated 922 gallons of water a month
Those shipments were delayed in early April after the government closed its borders and declared a state of emergency as COVID-19 began to spread across the country.
Some have criticized technologies like Zero Mass Water's as being too costly for the relatively small amount of water they generate compared to what's available through public utilities in less susceptible regions of the world.
The average cost of 1,000