Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Water Innovation

This is a video about a billboard that produces drinking water from the humidity in the air.  I am all for water innovation, and I hope this idea continues to be developed!  But, let us do a little quick math together.

One billboard produces 9,450 liters of water in three months.

That is about 105 liters a day. (Not accounting for any of the water spilling etc.)

In many relief and development contexts it would be ideal to provide 15-20 liters of water per person per day, but that includes water for bathing, cooking, washing clothes and dishes, etc.  For just drinking and some cooking you would want to provide at least 2.5-3 liters of water per person per day.

Since in the US most people are unfamiliar with liters, keep in mind, the average soda bottle is 2 liters and below is an image of a 20 liter jerry can.

So getting back to the math, the billboard can provide 7 people with 15 liters of water per day or 35 people with 3 liters of water per day.

Of course, I am totally unfamiliar with the context.  I don't know the typical local water usage per family.  I don't know what other sources of water are available. I don't know how they use the billboard water in comparison to how they use the well water.

My main question stems from the fact that the video implies they are able to provide for the water needs of hundreds of families.  But when I heard the numbers, I had to wonder how they are able to achieve that with only about 105 liters per day (a little more than 5 full jerry cans).

I had a chemistry professor as an undergrad who was a strong advocate for quick mental math and the memorization of estimates for key values in science.  He argued that as good scientists and engineers we should be able to hear a speaker or read an article and quickly consider whether their argument was reasonable based on the values they were presenting.  I have come to see the wisdom in his teaching methods.  I must admit that I have forgotten a lot of the estimates he asked us to memorize and I'm no longer as quick as I used to be with mental math, so please feel free to point out any mistakes I make.  =)  But I have become pretty familiar with basic numbers when it comes to providing safe drinking water.  So when I watch a video like the one above, I can quickly come to my own conclusions.

There was a time when solar panels were at this stage of development as well, and now they are used all over the world.  So I really do hope that engineers around the world continue to innovate and develop new ideas like providing drinking water from a billboard!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Apparently I like color. =) 

And I know my outfit doesn't exactly match, but I was determined to wear a spring outfit and fun colors even though it is still kind of cold in Philly. 

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
~Psalm 118:24

*Photos taken at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens on South Street

Harvard International Development Conference

Last weekend I was in Boston with several of my classmates for the International Development Conference at Harvard.  Of course the events of that Monday have dominated the news around the world for the last week.   Friends of mine have expressed their thoughts on the bombings on their own blogs, so if you are interested, check out these two posts.  I will only be sharing about my weekend and the conference.

ParadoxUganda: Not Quite at Home

Kriegers Living on Grace: Boston

As a budget traveler, I am so thankful for the hospitality of my friends in cities around the world.  Boston was no exception.  I was welcomed into the apartment of a dear childhood friend late on Thursday night.

Friday was a gloomy cold day, but I was determined to see some of Boston.  So despite the rain, I walked a most of the Freedom Trail.  It was a great way to get a sense for the city and see some historic sites. 

*St. Francis of Assisi statue that was part of the Old North Church*

The conference started Friday night and continued all day on Saturday.  I had the opportunity to hear many influential voices share their thoughts on the future of the development industry, local ownership, climate, the role of government, etc.   I was really thankful for the opportunity to consider a different perspective, since many of the speakers came from bilateral or multilateral agencies (IMF, USAID, World Bank, UNDP, etc.) or have been advisors to presidents of countries around the world whereas many of the students and professors at Eastern University are more involved in grassroots ministries, local churches, and NGOs.  

The conference had several interactive workshops and two case competitions.  I had the opportunity to participate in the case competition on South Sudan, and my team won!  As they were presenting the awards, one of the judges quipped that we had 3 minutes to present an intervention that we had developed in only 30 minutes to address a problem created over more than 30 years of conflict.  Of course our hastily composed intervention developed by graduate students from all over the world (but none from South Sudan) in the halls of Harvard, worlds away from the streets of Juba, is not the way to go.  But it was a fun exercise, and I got a certificate and free water bottle and flash drive out of it.  

My two main thoughts at the end of the conference were:

1. I understood most of what the speakers were discussing which means I have learned a lot of the last year.

2. I am thankful that God brought me to Eastern University.  It is the right program for me.