• Denise Engelbrecht

Water, Water everywhere and not a drop to drink... is no longer true

Lines from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The speaker, a sailor on a becalmed ship, is surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink...


Are we stuck in an ancient maritime paradigm because we have our heads in the sand and refuse to look up?


At EnsO Earth we are always looking for the new frontier when it comes to water... it is our passion and obsession to ensure our future... there is no future, no life without water.


While everyone was fixating on carbon, we were asking why no-one has seen this elephant in the room yet. We lived through Day Zero in Cape Town in 2017, and that only accelerated the need to solve this challenge we faced around water security.


But in all honesty it only really unlocked for me when we became involved in the Living Building project that will be Net+ Water certified. Forget the accolades that project will earn, we never came to the table to win prizes, but to find a way to unlock the secret of how a building could operate like a flower, and meet all its water needs within the footprint of the site.

The secret is in the system design where all the elements work holistically to the benefit of the whole... the keyword for that is SYNERGY and it is a word that resonates deep within me, as it was the keyword for my previous for-profit company Synura, which evolved into EnsO Earth, as we changed the focus away from for-profit to non-profit.


This was greater than myself and my own wealth generation. This was about the future of the next generation, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and who really knows, it could even be my own future incarnation... we don't really know.

As I sit on a farm in the Free State, listening to the literal collapse of the Johannesburg municipal water system, I cannot help but wonder how long we are going to hold onto an outdated design that is literally imploding, when the possibility of a decentralised network is within our reach...


As we go into a re-design of the potable water harvesting system for the Living Building and we run those numbers, I get excited by the minute... what happened during COVID was air water generation finally tipped the economic scales. This was a consideration pre-Covid but the numbers did not stack up. But post COVID, when all the monitoring and water quality testing numbers hit the table we were forced to go relook at it.


I was over the moon that it had finally tipped in the favour of AWG, because this technology is water on demand and in principle removes all the challenges, including pollution and contamination risk associated with rainwater harvesting for potable use.


The resulting water is clean and free of chemicals and other hazards. In areas where water is scarce or polluted, atmospheric water generators are reliable sources of clean, safe water.

But this is not new technology, they use a similar harvesting system on the International Space Station, but only recently is it a system that is financially viable for most people. We are working closely with a company to bring this technology to the people. For less that R30k capital investment you can generate 20 litres of water daily using less than 1kW of electricity. That is less than 30 cents a litre if we exclude the capex and on a ROI of 5 years it works out to R1.40 a litre, and then it will translate to 30 cents a litre.


While it is a game changer, we again need to ensure we do not over deplete the water supply and that we design a system that is ecologically balanced by recharging water vapour back into the atmosphere to ensure a closed loop design, and in principle infinite water.

Where we historically work with the annual water cycle to predict that water supply levels met water demand levels, this changes the water balance entirely. This supply/demand curve is now dictated by the process cycle duration and not the annual water cycle duration.


That is what got me really excited.


Suddenly the water storage is no longer controlled by the annual rainfall cycle... so it is no longer 365 days x 150 litres per person per day.... but possibly 7 days x 150l per person, that will re-cycle without disrupting the natural water balance of the site.

That is the power of the ecological water balance in the context of a closed loop decentralized network. We have finally replicated the International Space Station here on earth in a Living Building. We are literally making water from thin air, the way nature has for billions of years...


The future that I have dreamt about for a decade has finally arrived... I love my job at EnsO Earth, where we will continue to push the boundaries for future generations.


love and hope for the future








49 views