By John Parnell
F. Scott Fitzgerald said advertising’s contribution to humanity was “exactly minus zero”. That may not be the case any longer.
The world’s first water producing billboard has turned out almost 100 litres of water a day in the first six months since its launch in Peru.
Clear Channel Peru and the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima developed the $32,600 billboard to trap humidity from the air.
The water vapour is then condensed, filtered and stored. It is available by tap to anyone who passes by.
Melting glaciers in the Andes are reducing the volume of water stored into the melting season and decreasing the river levels. Many parts of the country on the lee side of the Andes are natural deserts making Peru one of the driest places on the planet.
The billboard, which is just south of Lima serves around 15 families every day as well as children from the local school.
There are a number of schemes to address water shortages in Peru from small traditional, unlined cocha reservoirs to larger foreign aid funded irrigation projects.
Climate change is increasing the variability of rainfall boosting the frequency and severity of droughts and floods.
Areas suffering land degradation are less able to cope to with heavy rainfall that washes away any existing soils, exacerbating the problem. They are also less able to store any moisture that is available making them more vulnerable to periods of drought.
In 2011 a drought in the Horn of Africa affected 13m people.
Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UN’s drought and land degradation agency said that disaster should serve as a call to arms.
“We experienced, once again, that the costs of disaster relief far outweigh the costs of risk management and preparedness,” he told delegates at a UNCCD event earlier this year.
“What we need now is a clear political commitment, with a roadmap, to shift from crisis management to drought preparedness, risk management and resilience building.”
Video: The story behind the water producing billboard