Kenya’s Majik Water to harvest drinking water from air for off-grid communities


Founded by Anastasia Kaschenko, Beth Koigi and Clare Sewell, Kenya’s Majik Water has launched a prototype and started its water harvesting process in pilot to help people in off-grid communities in Kenya harvest water from air using simple techniques and equipment.

The three-girl team, comprising of Clare, who previously worked as a strategic consultant for 9 years in London and  has for the past two years been living in Malawi where she started her own startup, Anastasia who worked for a company that is leading in dew harvesting as well as product research and development in Canada and Beth, a water entrepreneur in Kenya met in Silicon Valley where they realized they shared the same vision to help solve the water shortage issues around the world.

Majik Water works simply. The device uses sponge like materials that have high affinity for water molecules and attract water from humidity. When heated they release water vapor which is then condensed. This allows them to get water even in low humidity and in arid areas. Since these materials can be reused over and over again once heated it makes this device a one time cost. Majik Water mostly use solar energy for heating, making the device appropriate for off-grid communities.

“We were connected by the same need to see a world where water is in abundance and everyone has access to adequate and clean drinking water,” said Beth emphasizing just how big the problem they were solving is.

“Over 700m people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide. 319m of these are in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, 12 million people do not have access to adequate clean drinking water. Most worryingly water shortages are predicted to get much worse over the next decade,” she added.

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Through a combination of climate change and overuse of groundwater, by 2025 the UN estimates that 1.8 billion people will face absolute water shortage around the world and two thirds of the world population will be living in water scarce areas.

In Kenya, the firm says most people depend on underground sources of water such as boreholes even though there are limitations to using them. One of the biggest limitations apart from cost is that Groundwater takes millions of years to replenish and the water tables are becoming lower and lower every year due to over use of fresh underground water and due to increase in population.

At some point the ground water will not be available as these sources are unsustainable. Beth adds that due to decreasing water tables there is higher concentration of minerals in water such as lead, Fluoride and arsenic, overtime the effects will be devastating as the chemicals lead to kidney failure and fluorosis in some parts.

As underground water dries up alternative water sources though desalination -it becomes so costly to his is way more expensive than our cost per liter and unaffordable for many people.

Not wanting to blame the government, Beth says the firm has done its best to solve the problem even though corruption and money laundering among others.

“Water issues are sometimes affected by the policies in place but at some point it is supposed to be everyone’s responsibility.  Also there are said to be various loopholes that water mafias use to control the water business in the country,” she said.

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According to the firm, there is 6 times more water in the atmosphere than in all rivers around the world. Atmosphere is a source of clean drinking water that has not been utilised and we are introducing the new source of water. But this concept of harvesting water from due is not entirely new as ancient communities have used it, even here locally.

Majik Water’s greatest challenge is the solar system. The firm is exploring different systems to work with to make it easier and affordable for all.

Other challenges include need for a lot of energy to condense water directly from the air. To solve this Majic is using materials with high affinity for water molecules in air and after they capture these molecules they just heat them and collect the water vapour released. This makes it energy efficient.

Most of the technology that exists harvest dew, fog or mist or water in high humidity of 60% and above. But Majic Water’s device can work in low humidity of 35% and above in most arid and semiarid areas in Kenya.

The firm’s initial pilot will help it determine whether to produce a household device or a community device then after two years launch an assembly line of similar water harvesting devices in Kenya. Beth tells TechMoran that the firm has held off raising funds till after its pilot at the end of this month.