SunToWater addresses a global environmental and human crisis by producing clean, drinkable water from the air. The company was started by Jeanine Johnson, an expert in atmospheric water generation (AWG), Benjamin Blumenthal, who has extensive water sector experience, and Amy Brandt, a finance professional who previously ran an engineering firm that developed space equipment. They recruited a dedicated team of engineers and advisors to create an accessible, affordable, and green solution.
Hank Habicht, former COO at the EPA and now SunToWater’s Chief Strategy Officer, is confident in the team and their product.
“SunToWater has the pedigree of a world-class engineering team that looked at existing AWG technologies and evaluated a range of ways to generate water from the air,” Habicht said. “They developed an approach to AWG that secured 14 patents and created a solid and game-changing approach.”
SunToWater won the Founder’s Institute Showcase in 2015, which helped them to raise seed and Series A funding. The team is currently testing and optimizing a generator they’ll replicate as part of the $1.75 million Water Abundance XPRIZE competition. “We're excited about contributing to the campaign for viable solutions alongside the other XPRIZE participants, and we’re looking forward to disrupting the water industry in 2018,” said Johnson, a SunToWater Board Member.
VP of Engineering Bryan Messer explains why the SunToWater generator is revolutionary: “Our device is unique in that it uses the greenest source of energy we know: the sun. As opposed to other AWG devices that are dependent on energy-hungry, refrigerant-based cooling subsystems, ours leverages solar thermal power.”
The generator also functions in a broader range of locations than refrigerant-based solutions; it can produce water in extremely arid conditions like the Sahara desert, or in polluted environments such as Beijing. Here’s how it works: air is pulled into the generator via energy-efficient fans and is circulated through SunToWater’s desiccant technology. Next, it is baked from the desiccant and condensed into pure, clean water. Minerals are then added back into the water, which can be piped directly into a home, garden, or external water tank. Ultimately, this approach decentralizes water as a utility, similar to how solar panels disrupted the delivery of electricity; and it produces clean water without depleting resources or risking contamination from antiquated infrastructure. In short, the generator provides consumers with clean water independent of traditional water grids.
Addressing water scarcity in a way that is economical, accessible, and environmentally friendly solves a multitude of global problems, including those related to health, economics, and conflict. Water shortage is a major public health crisis that results in approximately one million deaths worldwide annually. It’s also a strain on the global economy, with $260 billion per year lost due to the sheer time and effort it takes people (mostly women and girls) to collect water on a daily basis. This generator to save lives by reducing conflict zones.
“The population is growing, and with more than 100 countries sharing a common, limited water source, experts agree transboundary water conflicts will increase,” said Blumenthal, a specialist in cross-cultural conflict resolution. “Our technology enables people to own an independent and secure supply of inexpensive drinking water, drawing from an inexhaustible source of water: our atmosphere.”
As awareness about SunToWater increases and the company grows, Habicht wants to see SunToWater integrated into communities. “We can’t solve the water crisis alone, but we can generate safe, pure water to meet the needs of any person—and better yet, we can achieve that objective as part of an integrated system that makes all of our buildings, communities, and watersheds more sustainable.”
The people at SunToWater are thinking big for short- and long-term solutions. “The water crisis is one of the most important challenges of our time, and time is of the essence,” says investor and SunToWater Board Chair Brandt. “Winning the XPRIZE would help us to raise awareness about the product and expedite the process of getting generators to the people who need them.”
Johnson adds, “When co-founding SunToWater, I was intent on democratizing access to clean water. In five years, I hope our approach is more efficient and cost optimized for developing nations. In 10 years, I hope our technology evolves to supply water to Elon Musk’s colony on Mars.”