Beth Koigi may have felt her skin crawl on seeing the filthy water spew from the tap when she first moved into her dormitory at Chuka University in eastern Kenya. The water was clearly unfit – for bathing even. But somehow, it was the only source of water available for all kinds of use.
The water situation got her started on her first project which involved building water filters and selling the same to people on the cheap. In some ways, the little endeavour did go some way toward solving the problem. But it wasn’t for long.
In 2016, a severe drought hit parts of her locale, and before long, Koigi’s water supply was cut off, and she was caught up in a dilemma.
Obviously, having developed a working filtration system, it was well within her means to make the water cleaner. But what was the point of the whole thing if there wasn’t any water to purify?
As Koigi says; “Going for months without any tap water became a very bad situation. Where I used to live, we didn’t get any tap water at all, so even doing simple things like going to the toilet – I would go to the mall instead. Having no water at all is worse than just having unpurified water, so I started thinking about a way to not have to rely on the council.”
Such was the conundrum and thus did she begin thinking up ways to solve yet another problem. But this time, though, she may have just found the perfect one.
Having learned that the debilitating water scarcity had strong connections with climate change, it was necessary that she tailored her solution with that in mind. And that was the mindset that kickstarted her journey through a four-month programme at Silicon Valley-based think tank, Singularity University.
During the course of the programme, the 27-year-old teamed up with two other women to create Majik Water; a technology-driven solution which involves capturing moisture from the air and converting it into drinking water with the aid of solar power.
The innovation was the result of concerted efforts between Beth Koigi, Anastasia Kaschenko, and Clare Sewell. The former is an American environmental scientist. The latter, on her part, is a British economist.
How does drawing water from thin air sound to you? Outrageous, maybe? Yes, it does sound that way. And how about quenching thirst with air? Flat-out crazy, isn’t it?
While the idea may come across as rocket science or another one for the ‘eggheads,’ it’s pretty much public knowledge that there is moisture in the air – something that can be picked up from as early as elementary school.
That said, the only new piece of information on this front may be the fact that a trio of women has created a device which draws that moisture from the air and turns into copious amount of drinkable water.
Interestingly, the idea of drawing water from air is not exactly new as ancient civilisations are known to have, in fact, harvested dew from those early times.
As an improved variant of the concept which is built on the latest technology, Majik Water uses desiccants such as silica gels to absorb water from the air. These are then heated to release the water which is finally collected.
Perhaps to a layperson, air is no more than a vast expanse of nothingness waiting to be filled with matter. But to Koigi and her team, it is a limitless resource that is capable of quenching thousands of thirst and solving drought problems.
What better way to bolster the ingenuity behind the invention than by quoting a line from the Majik Water website which has it that; “There are six times as much water in the air as there is in all rivers in the world. If you have air, you can have clean, safe drinking water.”
Majik Water, which is the name given to this innovative undertaking, is aptly coined from the Swahili word for “Water”; “Maji”, and the “K” from the translation of ‘Harvest’ in the same language; “Kuna.” Using solar technology, the initial prototype of the Majik Water is capable of harvesting up to 10 litres of water per day.
For an innovation that only just broke out, Majik Water has been the subject of quite a buzz. Amongst awards that the three women have gobbled up for their efforts are; Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum Tech Entrepreneur Award, Oxford Innovation Fair Award, EDF Pulse Award, MIT Water Innovation Award, and a number of others.
Majik Water is also in the running for the forthcoming Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize, but more importantly, it will be looking to alleviate drought which is estimated to affect up to 1.8 billion people by 2025.
Featured image courtesy: nairobibusinessmonthly.com