By 2025, an estimated 1.8bn people—or a quarter of humanity—will be living with absolute water scarcity.
Someone who knows exactly how damaging that can be is Kenyan entrepreneur Beth Koigi, the founder and CEO of Majik Water. While studying at Chuka University, she had no choice but to drink dirty, contaminated water, drawn from a soil- and pesticide-strewn local river.
So she decided to make her own water filter. The solution proved so popular that Koigi was encouraged to set up a business, Aqua Clean Initiative, to focus on water security full-time.
“As you may know, the water situation is different in each and every location,” Koigi explained in a TEDx talk. “In Nairobi, we didn’t have the soil erosion problem, we had more bacterial contamination. We had a lot of E Coli bacteria in the water, so there was a lot of typhoid and cholera.
“I made my first filter that was able to remove bacterial contaminants, and I sold over 5,000 filters to different households in Nairobi.”
Majik Water for areas with drought
But what about when there’s no water at all? When the rivers run dry, and the water table drops?
This came to the forefront when an acute drought hit Southern and Eastern Africa in 2016-17. So Koigi thought about taking advantage of an always available, untapped water source: the air.
“There’s six times more water in the atmosphere than all rivers around the world,” Koigi adds in her talk. “There are different ways people get water from the atmosphere. One, you can harvest fog or mist. Two, you can harvest dew. And three, you can harvest humidity.”
She chose method three and co-founded the company Majik Water in 2017. She developed a prototype that can suck air through a solar-powered fan, absorb the water moisture, and then condense and filter the water into drinkable water.
— Majik Water (@majikwater) February 21, 2019
The water is delivered through a gravity-fed tap that doesn’t require a motor.
Majik Water ran a pilot at the Ark Children’s Home in Thika, Kenya, which is based in a water-scarce area. The tech is able to provide children and staff with 50 litres of clean, safe drinking water per day, drawn from the atmosphere.
The aim is to have 100+ litre community devices, to make something that provides reliably clean water at low cost, and to pay per litre of water.
The organisation was featured in the documentary Brave Blue World by actor Matt Damon, which looked at innovative approaches to solving the global water crisis.
“This water can be used for anything. It’s clean drinking water,” Koigi adds in the TEDx talk. “You can use the water for drinking, for irrigation….this technology can make desert environments farmable.
“The future of Africa is technology. We need to embrace these new technologies. Some parts of Israel and the US are using this technology already.
“It’s high time we bring this technology home, to where we actually need it for our own local conditions and our own use.”