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Spanish Aquaer company engineer and inventor, Enrique Veiga, 82, left, and his son Juan, Aquaer CEO, check a machine that extracts drinking water from thin air before its first start-up, in Carrion de los Cespedes, Spain, on July 28, 2021.

JON NAZCA/Reuters

A Spanish company has devised a system to extract drinking water from thin air to supply arid regions where people are in desperate need.

“The goal is to help people,” said Enrique Veiga, the 82-year-old engineer who invented the machine during a harsh drought in southern Spain in the 1990s. “The goal is to get to places like refugee camps that don’t have drinking water.”

The devices made by his company, Aquaer, are already delivering clean, safe water to communities in Namibia and a Lebanese refugee camp.

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“In the villages we visited in Namibia, they were astonished, they didn’t understand, asking where the water came from,” he said.

The machines use electricity to cool air until it condenses into water, harnessing the same effect that causes condensation in air-conditioning units.

While other water generators based on similar technology require high ambient humidity and low temperatures to function effectively, Mr. Veiga’s machines work in temperatures of up to 40 C and can handle humidity of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

A small machine can produce 50 to 75 litres a day, and be easily carried on a trolley, but bigger versions can produce up to 5,000 litres a day.

“Our idea is not only to make a device that is effective, but also to make it useful for people who have to walk for miles to fetch water or make wells,” Mr. Veiga explained.

Switzerland-based Vietnamese refugee Nhat Vuong joined the cause after meeting Mr. Veiga and visiting a refugee camp near Tripoli in Lebanon in 2017.

He founded a non-profit organization, Water Inception, which brought a 500-litre a day machine to the camp.

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“It’s working beautifully, I’m really happy,” said Mr. Nhat, who is now raising funds to install solar panels to bring down electricity costs and reduce the environmental impact of the project.

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