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SCI-Arc Alumnus David Hertz Awarded $1.5 Million Water Abundance XPRIZE

SCI-Arc alumnus David Hertz (B.Arch ’83) and partner Laura Doss-Hertz of Skysource/Skywater Alliance have been awarded the prestigious $1.5 million Water Abundance XPRIZE for their system of high-volume water generation. Called Wood-to-Energy Deployable Emergency Water (WeDew), the winning system can be used in any climate, and extracts a minimum of 2,000 liters of water per day from the atmosphere using 100 percent renewable energy, at a cost of no more than two cents per liter.

a couple standing next to an electric board
The Skysource/Skywater Alliance co-founders David Hertz, left, and his wife Laura Doss-Hertz pose next to the Skywater 300.

Combining existing Skywater technology which forms air from condensation with a biomass gassifier, WEDEW allows for the low-cost use of anything from woodchips to coconut shells to fuel it, has the added feature of generating biochar which can be used for fertilizer, and can also run on solar and battery power.

Skysource was founded to address global and local issues of water scarcity and water quality after David, who is a pioneer in the field of regenerative architecture, found few technologies or methodologies to address these issues especially in Southern California’s drought stricken regions.

“At Skysource, we believe water is a fundamental human right and should be decentralized, abundant, and democratized,” Hertz says. “We are trying to change the relationship that our planet has with water.”

shipping containers rice paddy rendering
The WeDew, Wood-to Energy Deployed Emergency Water, unit as theoretically deployed in a small farm holder rice patty to convert Bio mass to energy, water, and refrigeration.

Hertz and Doss-Hertz initially installed an earlier iteration of the WeDew system, then a 150-gallon a day machine, in their Venice neighborhood to provide free water to the homeless population living in surrounding areas. “Skywater products were designed primarily for very hot, humid climates,” Hertz says. “I brought them into California because of the drought and to use in my architecture projects as part of an integrated systems approach.”

“So the idea that I could just make water from the air and give it away for free was really a compelling notion,” he continued, “and expand[ing] on that idea [for] the democratization of our common good.”

Sponsored by India's Tata Group and Australian Aid, XPRIZEs are a unique approach to tackling some of the world's most serious problems, using a crowd-sourced problem-solving approach with corporate and government partners providing incentives to teams around the world.