Conjuring up water from thin air

Everyone knows air contains moisture, but few know that it can be squeezed into pure drinking water. Jamshedpur may soon show you how.

By Animesh Bisoee
  • Published 27.05.16
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State food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy at Circuit House in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad

Everyone knows air contains moisture, but few know that it can be squeezed into pure drinking water. Jamshedpur may soon show you how.

State food and civil supplies minister Saryu Roy, who is also the MLA of Jamshedpur West and a water crusader in his own right, is in talks with a Chennai-based company for adopting the technology that can condense water vapour in the air into drinking water and, thereby, drastically reduce the popular dependence on depleting groundwater resource.

"My objective is to install atmospheric moisture extraction (AME) machines of Akash Ganga India Private Limited, which is among global pioneers in this technology, in schools and areas facing drinking water crisis. We are currently working out logistics with the company. The AME machines will be installed on a pilot basis in selected pockets of my constituency," Roy told The Telegraph on Thursday.

Speaking to this correspondent over phone from Chennai, managing director of Akash Ganga T.M. Shyamsunder said the technology involved controlled condensation of water vapour in the atmosphere.

"The machine sucks air with the help of a fan and condenses it to extract water. It has a 12-micron filter to remove impurities and suspended particles in the air. Apart from this, our equipment has three more filtration processes to ensure that the water is free from bacteria and microbes. The more the humidity level the more is the yield of water. The machine needs regular supply of electricity. It doesn't waste water as normal RO purifiers, as there is no effluent," he said.

According to Shyamsunder, the machine can effectively work even at a low relative humidity of 25 per cent and maximum temperature of 48°C.

"In Jamshedpur, the average RH is around 40 per cent in April-May and the maximum reading hovers around 46°C," he observed, adding that one machine would cost around Rs 12 lakh, including installation charges, but yield more than 500 litres of pure drinking water every day.

Not many of us realise that the amount of moisture present in the Earth's atmosphere at any point of time is about 10 times more than the water content of all the rivers in the world put together!

The principal feature of water from Akash Ganga AME system is the absence of harmful microbes. It is also free of dust and most dissolved solids found in even filtered water. At the same time, it has trace elements that are necessary.

Other than domestic and commercial users, the Chennai company's customers include the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Indian Army. At the moment, it manufactures AMEs with a capability of producing 10 litres to 1,000 litres per day. A proposal for setting up a 100,000 litre per day system is under consideration by the Centre.

Roy has advised the private firm to submit a presentation to the state urban development department. He has already spoken to chief secretary Rajbala Verma about benefits of the project for its implementation across state.

The minister's initiative assumes significance because of the grim groundwater scenario in Jamshedpur.

A pre-monsoon groundwater evaluation done by the directorate of groundwater resources, Jharkhand, showed that the steel city sufferers from massive overexploitation.

While Dhanbad tops the category in the state with 143.09 per cent overexploitation, followed by Kanke (Ranchi) with 122.44 per cent and Godda with 110.06 per cent, Jamshedpur's groundwater is 107.5 per cent overexploited.