Two devices that extract drinking water from the air were donated by the State of Israel to schools in rural Colombia at the beginning of this week. The devices were installed in La Guajira, a state in northeastern Colombia, which for years has been suffering from a disastrous water crisis.
The donation marks a significant contribution to President Iván Duque’s “Guajira Azul” program, which includes initiatives that will bring fresh clean drinking water and basic sanitation to the area, and is part of a larger social initiative for the peninsula administered by Colombia’s Housing Ministry.
For centuries, the indigenous Wayuu population adapted to survive by planting crops fit to the region’s unique ecosystem. Seasonal rains have a large significance for the Wayuu, but over the past decade, they have become less frequent due to climate change. Prolonged droughts and rising temperatures in recent years have disrupted long-standing Wayuu planting practices and left the land with the largest amount of desertification in the country.
According to a report published by Human Right Watch on May 2nd, 2020, La Guajira accounts for more than 20 percent of malnutrition deaths among children under 5 in Colombia (while it is home to only 7 percent of the population). In recent years, over 75 percent of malnutrition deaths in La Guajira are of indigenous children, although the indigenous population is only 42 percent of the state’s population.
“We are proud to take part in this initiative, one that will save lives and improve safety, health, and welfare in the region,” said Dr. Michael Mirilashvili, Watergen’s President and CEO. “In doing so, we continue to fulfill our mission of guaranteeing drinking water security for all.”
La Guajira Governor Nemesio Roys thanked Israel and Watergen and expressed his amazement at the technology. “We have a long history of drilling into the earth, which we believed was the most efficient way to bring water to La Guajira. But today we have learned of a new method, and thanks to Israeli technology, we can use the air around us to provide fresh drinking water, a greatly needed resource here.”
Christian Cantor, Israel’s Ambassador to Colombia, acknowledged that it was gratifying to deliver the AWGs to La Guajira, since he has first-hand knowledge of the region’s need for clean drinking water.“We hope to continue sharing our knowledge, experience and technology with Colombia, and promote the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries,” said Ambassador Cantor. “We will work hand-in-hand with President Duque on the Guajira Azul project to bring wellbeing to the Wayuu community.”
Invented and produced by Watergen, the global leader in water-from air solutions, the devices will provide up to 800 liters of fresh drinking water from air daily to 1,500 Wayuu students of San Antonio Armasain’s Indigenous School, as well as to neighboring schools in the town of Manaure. Children will stop drinking brackish water and begin to consume fresh, clean drinking water produced from the air. Watergen’s solutions, which have already been distributed in other areas of Colombia, are convenient, mobile, and sustainable, and do not require any water infrastructure or plastic waste. The company’s solutions are also portable and can supply fresh and clean drinking water to entire populations.
“This donation is very important and will help us continue reaching our goal to benefit the Wayuu communities,” said the Vice Minister. “This generous gesture from Israel and its Ambassador in Colombia provides a resounding boost to our goal of making water the engine of La Guajira’s quality of life.” Jose Luis Acero, Vice Minister of Water and Basic Sanitation, facilitated the entire process of arranging for the generators to get to their final destination.