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BC tech company pulls water from thin air

The ability to produce clean water out of thin air may seem too good to be true, but one B.C. technology company is garnering international attention for creating a machine that does just that.

Jonathan Ritchey, president of Element Four in Kelowna, brought his invention to New York last weekend for an annual showcase of gadgets that could change the world, according to the editors at Wired magazine.

Called the Watermill, it works by condensing moisture from the air and purifying it, but it's not a "glorified dehumidifier," said Ritchey. The air is first cleaned of particulate matter and then condensed in a self-sterilizing chamber where it's exposed to UV light. The water is then filtered through a carbon filter before being passed along to the household fridge or tap.

The device itself is 23-inch-wide dome that mounts to the exterior wall of the building. It can produce 12 litres of water per day using about the same amount of electricity as three light bulbs.

"It's designed to be energy efficient…if you put it in the rainforest, or in a dry, arid desert, it will do the best it can in those environments," he said.

"30 million plastic water bottles go to landfills every day in North America," said Ritchey. "At the same time, there are strains on our aquifiers and water systems. Our system is taking it out of a great untapped source."

Ritchey said he plans to have the Watermill on the market by next spring, and it will retail for $1295.

Right now there are some units being manufactured in Kelowna, but operations will soon move to China, said Ritchey, who thinks it will be more popular in southern U.S. regions that face water shortages.

"We're worried about being able to keep up to sales."

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