Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Water Theater

Revolutions in technology that literally change the world are rare commodities. If one is fortunate one might see a stunning breakthrough in one's lifetime, but they are not common. Welcome to ours.

Welcome to the Teatro del Agua.

British designer, Charlie Patton, has created a water desalination plant that produces fresh water from thin air. The water needs no treatment to be potable, is produced continuously, requires no fossil fuels to power it, and is not a pipedream.

The first will be built by the Spanish government in the Canary islands. Others are scheduled for the coasts of desert countries like Oman.

The plant consists of tall vertical pipes through which cold seawater is pumped and recirculated. Seabreezes loaded with moisture blow across the pipes and moisture condenses out of the air, dripping down the pipes into a trough where it flows away to storage. The pumps are powered by either solar or waves and currents in the sea. In the event that the humidity drops, seawater is misted on the front grid of the theater where it is evaporated by the breeze and then condensed (minus its salt) on the pipes behind.

It can provide enough fresh water for medium sized cities.

Traditional desalination plants consume fossil fuels at astounding rates in order to produce steam that is then distilled. The water must also be treated. And they are butt-ugly.

This building serves a practical purpose but also stands tall as a public structure, functioning as a naturally cooled ampitheater. It will provide one of the most precious vital resources needed in an era of droughts and climate change. It can be built virtually anywhere there is a coast and an onshore flow. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and not an eyesore. And it is dual-purposed as a public gathering space with the ambient sound of dripping water as a background.

This is our generation's revolution.