20 June 2012 by Julienne du Toit

The Dew Catcher

Bottled water: the idea of plastic bottles, and the attendant controversy, isn’t for everyone. On the Durban beachfront, 1 man is chiselling away at this, 1 glass bottle of freshly condensed cloud water at a time.

The wind turbine that powers water condensation (and a cappuccino machine) at Dew Catcher, Durban beachfront. Photo Chris Marais

There was a brisk, steady wind blowing off the sea, and the wind turbine over the Dew Catcher container at Durban’s beachfront was twirling around like an insane rotary dryer.

Ross with freshly squeezed cloud water in front of him. Photo Chris Marais

Inside, Ross Badcock-Walters was a happy chap. The wind was giving him steady power to do his 2 favourite things: condense water out of thin air, and make fabulous cappuccinos using free power.

The Durban Underwater Club, whose property he’s on, was also happy, because the wind power meant its electricity metre was running backwards.

Ross's 3 dogs pottered in and out, good-naturedly greeting visitors who came to buy water by the crate, all in glass bottles (which are recycled).

Nkulu Phungula was busy filling bottle after bottle of water freshly condensed out of Durban’s air.

The wind was giving him steady power to do his 2 favourite things: condense water out of thin air, and make fabulous cappuccinos using free power.

Ross and his company, Pure Dew, work on 2 levels – they sell the water that is ‘born in a cloud and presented in a glass’ to individuals and outlets like Durban’s famous eco-restaurant, the Corner Cafe; and Dew Catchers also sells the actual condensers that pluck the water from the air.

Recently a big, mobile unit went to Zulu Nyala game lodge in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The water from the Dew Catcher (less romantic name: atmospheric water generator) is being used to supplement its existing borehole water. In a day it had filled a 1 000 litre tank with freshly condensed water.

There are smaller units, too, suitable for smaller operations or households. They can be bought or even just rented.

Glass bottles for water condensed out of thin air using wind power. High greenie points. Photo Chris Marais

All deliver what is pretty much distilled water, so Ross runs it through a carbon filter where it picks up minerals along the way.

How perfect for conferences, I kept thinking. All those plastic bottles of mineral water are so incredibly wasteful.

In fact, it was the UN climate change Conference of the Parties (COP17), held in Durban last year, that really got Ross going. Unfortunately, because of red tape and other irksome things, carbon footprint-free Dew Catcher water was never actually available to the delegates. But the business has taken off anyway.

And the wind turbine? I looked at it with covetous eyes, especially because the design (created by Umoya) means it is quiet and spins easily, no matter what direction the wind is coming from.

Also, I’ve tasted wind-powered cappuccino and cloud water caught by wind power, and I have to say, both are somewhat addictive.

Category: Responsible Tourism

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