FLINT, Mich. (KXAN) — Families in Flint, Mich., still dealing with lead in their pipes have a continuous source of clean, free water thanks to a Texas man who developed a machine to pull water from the air.
Now, Moses West wants to take that machine to the Bahamas to aid in recovery after Hurricane Dorian ravaged the islands.
“This is a long-term recovery for the people there, and one of the stresses that they do not need to have is a lack of clean water,” West said.
KXAN reached West via video chat in Wisconsin, where he spent last week building a new generation of his water-harvesting devices. The military veteran is from San Antonio and developed his first machine partly at Camp Mabry in Austin.
He’s spent the last several years proving the technology works and developing more productive, more efficient versions.
The science behind the technology is simple condensation, the same principle that creates beads of water on the outside of a cold glass of water on a hot, humid day. The warmer and more humid the air outside, the better his machine is able to condense the water in the air, making it rain inside the shipping container-size device. A spigot and hose allow people to fill up any container with fresh, potable water.
“It’s like an endless source of water,” West said. “It’s a water generator.”
In Flint, where the weather is cooling off, the machine is currently extracting about 1,200 gallons a day, enough to keep more than 2,000 people hydrated. But in the tropical climate of the Bahamas, he anticipates it can create much more than that.
“It’s like going downhill in a go-kart.”
He knows because he encountered similar conditions a couple years ago when he took a machine to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. That machine is now inoperable, West said.
Families in Flint are stocking up now, filling big containers and freezing some of the water to use in the winter, and West plans to take the machine to the Bahamas by the end of the month.
In order to get it there to give people free access to water, West needs to raise at least $15,000 in donations through his nonprofit, the Water Rescue Foundation, for transportation costs. The clothing company Sevenly is also donating proceeds of its “Bahamas Strong” t-shirt to the foundation to help get the machine to the islands.
It comes as West works on the third generation of his devices, which will be easier to fix, among other improvements. If he receives enough donations, he can afford to leave the machines in locations in need permanently and train locals to operate and maintain them.
Families in Flint have taken to the machine, some of them who live close enough coming multiple times a day for a gallon or two of water. It’s become the “neighborhood’s water well,” West said, and while it will be leaving soon for the Bahamas, the folks there understand the need and can vouch for the solution he’s developed.
“Call anybody there in Flint,” West said, “and they’ll tell you how much they like that machine.”