If you live in Bahia Hondita, Colombia, a new technology that creates clean, renewable drinking water must seem like a miracle. Bahía Hondita is a small bay in northeast Guajira Peninsula, Colombia, bordering the Caribbean, where nearly 500 Wayuu indigenous people live.
With no roads or infrastructure, it is cut off from the rest of the country. It didn’t have access to piped, bottled or even trucked water, and people had to walk for up to six hours to find water that was safe to drink.
Then on March 6, 2020, its residents celebrated creating safe water “from thin air,” reported Conservation. “The small community of Bahía Hondita now has clean drinking water, thanks to the installation of 149 SOURCE Hydropanels provided by a partnership between Conservation International and Zero Mass Water, a renewable water company based in Arizona.”
Thanks to “the world’s first renewable drinking water system – clean, safe, made entirely off-grid, almost anywhere in the world,” people now have up to 22,000 liters of clean, renewable drinking water each month.
“Entirely off-grid, SOURCE extracts water vapor from the air to make, mineralize, and deliver safe, great-tasting drinking water to a tap while offsetting the energy and waste of bottled and purified water. SOURCE is renewable water ownership designed to increase water security and supply resilience.”
“By sucking moisture out of the air, this company generates clean water anywhere,” says Fast Company. Source Global (formerly called Zero Mass Water), headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a public benefit corporation which wants to make drinking water an unlimited resource. In 2020 Fast Company listed it as one of the most innovative social good companies.
So how did an Arizona-based company learn about Bahia Hondita?
Conservation International – Colombia had created a partnership with the community in 2009, with the support of Cerrejón and Corpoguajira, to boost populations of the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) who nest along the shores of the Guajira Peninsula. The partnership meant they learned about the community’s challenges, like the need for safe water.
“The arid, dry landscape means people have traditionally relied on ground water with dangerously high levels of saline that is unsafe to drink on a regular basis,” says Jennifer Morris, President of Conservation International. “Accessible, abundant, clean drinking water means improved livelihoods and health, and of course, more time — time and energy that the Wayuu can now use to focus on conservation and living sustainable, abundant lives,” says Maria Claudia Diazgranados, Oceans program director.
So it turned to Zero Mass Water, and a Lemelson-MIT grant funded the panels for Bahia Hondita. “We see this as just the beginning of our work with indigenous and other remote communities in Colombia, and around the globe, acting on our vision to provide renewable water and an equitable future for all people,” said founder and CEO Cody Friesen.
The SOURCE® Hydropanel is a “one-of-a-kind renewable water technology that uses the power of the sun to extract clean, pollutant-free drinking water from the air.” The water is mineralized for ideal composition and taste, making drinking water a readily available resource.
“As the first truly renewable global SOURCE of safe drinking water we have the ability to reach people around the world who lack access to potable water, have variability in supply, or are concerned about the quality of their infrastructure,” Friesen said in 2020. “Our new name, SOURCE Global, PBC, is a clear reflection of our vision to perfect water for every person, every place.”
SOURCE Global was alread part of a worldwide community of companies that use business as a force for good, by the time it became a public benefit corporation. Its B Certification means it meets rigorous social and environmental business standards set by B Lab. “SOURCE is a strong example of how businesses can impact and serve the community and the planet, along with its stakeholders,” said Ben Anderson, Co-CEO of B Lab U.S./Canada, which vets and certifies benefit corporations.
Indigenous Colombian community looks to the sky to create unprecedented water access. Conservation News, Mar. 6, 2020
The 10 most innovative social good companies of 2020. Fast Company, Mar. 10, 2020
Zero Mass Water Becomes SOURCE Global, PBC to Supply Renewable Drinking Water Around the World. SOURCE Global, Sep. 23, 2020
From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button. MIT News, Apr. 28, 2022
This tech is bringing water to Navajo Nation by pulling it out of the air. Fast Company, Jul. 22, 2020
This Texas Community Has Waited Decades for Running Water. Could Hydro-Panels Help? Inside Climate News, Jun. 5, 2023