For over 100 years, the people of Allensworth, California, have been looking for safe, reliable sources of drinking water. Now, after decades of investigating and implementing various technologies, the community is evaluating an innovation that makes quality drinking water from resources in the sky.
Arsenic naturally occurs in the region’s groundwater and Allensworth is served by two groundwater wells that have contained arsenic levels up to 60 percent higher than state defined safety levels for drinking water. As a result, residents travel to the next county to buy water in single-use plastic bottles or jugs.
“In a place like this, which is a Severely Disadvantaged Community based on household income criteria established by the State of California, the health and economic consequences of poor drinking water quality are very real,” said long-time resident and community leader Kayode Kadara. “We simply don’t have the financial resources to build treatment plants or new infrastructure, and the town has worked for more than a century to find a cost-effective fix. This technology might very well be the answer.”
Allensworth is not alone.
- 40 percent of America’s 50,000 community water systems have had water quality violations, according to the EPA.
- 15 percent of Americans still rely on wells as their main source of water. A full 50 percent of that water wouldn’t pass a quality test.
- Over 450,000 California residents who are served by a Community Water System are subjected to water that is failing to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Evidence shows that American households facing water insecurity and poor water quality are likely to have lower incomes and live in areas where infrastructure has been systemically underfunded.
- 100 percent of California’s failing systems serve less than 100,000 people; 96.4 percent serve less than 10,000 people. Tulare County, where Allensworth is located, has largest number of systems without safe water. (Community Water Center’s Drinking Water Tool identifies exactly where communities have the environmental burden of no clean water and are also disadvantaged.)
- The most common contaminants found in these water systems are arsenic, nitrate, lead, copper, Uranium, and E.Coli.
- According to a recent study commissioned by SOURCE Global, PBC, just a third of the American public feels confident about the quality of water coming out of their tap.
“While we typically think of the U.S as having good water quality, access to safe drinking water isn’t a given for tens of thousands of communities in the nation over a million California residents,” said Rob Bartrop, CRO of SOURCE Global. “As the divide between urban and rural communities gets wider and funding for infrastructure is increasingly allocated to cities, we expect to see more small towns face water challenges. Beyond that, the economic recovery of these areas, already hit hard by COVID-19, is likely to lag well behind the rest of the country, making a difficult situation worse.”
To tackle those challenges in Allensworth, the community is collaborating with SOURCE to outfit their local community center with two Hydropanels to sustainably generate drinking water. The Hydropanels use the warmth of the sun to draw clean, pollutant-free water vapor out of the air through a patented, water-absorbing material and into a reservoir inside the panel. The system then adds minerals to create premium-quality drinking water, delivered directly to taps and faucets. The Hydropanels are being piloted in Allensworth to allow residents to taste the water and evaluate the technology, and residents are collecting water for their homes from a dispenser at the community center.
The system will produce the equivalent of 43,800 bottles of water over its lifetime, with no plastic waste. Looking forward, community leaders and SOURCE plan to apply for a California Drinking Water State Revolving Fund grant that will fund panels for every home in this approximately 600-person community.
Kadara said that as a potential long-term option for the supply of arsenic-free drinking water in underserved communities around world, the system will be incorporated into the Summer Work Program administered by community leaders. The science involved with the SOURCE® system will enhance area student’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) experience and education and help them grow into leaders and stewards of the environment.
SOURCE technology, which works entirely off the grid and in nearly every climate, is well suited for places like Allensworth, a small community with little infrastructure, limited resources and a hot, arid environment. The SOURCE system makes safe drinking water an endlessly renewable resource and can give water-stressed, historically underserved communities ownership of a sustainable drinking water supply.
“In Allensworth, we know all too well that water is an issue of social equity.” Kadara said, “When Colonel Allensworth founded the town, the first in California established and governed exclusively by African Americans, he was told help for the area’s water issue was coming, but it never came. Allensworth is considered ‘the community that refuses to die,’ and with the resilience and vision of the people here, we are taking control of our future and ensuring that we consider all sustainable and regenerative processes in our decision making. SOURCE® Hydropanels fit into the community’s plans for a viable option for the delivery of sustainable drinking water.”
About SOURCE Global, PBC
SOURCE Global, PBC’s mission is to make drinking water an unlimited resource. The company’s SOURCE® Hydropanels tap the sky to create drinking water using sunlight and air as the only inputs, putting the power of safe, high-quality water production into the hands of every person in nearly every climate and corner of the world. A Public Benefit Corporation, SOURCE is on Fast Company’s 2020 list of most innovative social good companies. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the company operates in 48 countries and on six continents. SOURCE is a registered trademark of SOURCE Global, PBC. For more information, visit www.source.co and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.