Israeli solar-run machines that convert air to drinking water still working in Gaza

Three out of seven Watergen machines installed in the south of the Hamas-controlled enclave reportedly still supplying clean water to at least 2,000 Gazans

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Watergen's technology uses a series of filters to purify the air, take out the humidity and transform it into clean drinking water. (YouTube screenshot)
Watergen's technology uses a series of filters to purify the air, take out the humidity and transform it into clean drinking water. (YouTube screenshot)

Several thousand Gazans have access to potable water from three Israeli water-from-air Watergen machines that remain operating in southern Gaza, according to the former head of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel, which installed the machines.

The machines use filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is treated and transformed into clean drinking water.

Three of the machines are in southern Gaza, to which the IDF has been directing civilians during the current Israel-Hamas war.

They are located in Abasan Al Kabira, Abasan Al Jedida, and the Nasser Medical Center in Khan Younis. They are jointly capable of producing up to 6,000 liters (just under 1,600 gallons) of water a day, enough for roughly 2,000 people.

The Arava Institute’s Palestinian partner, Damour for Community Development, enables it to operate in Gaza and the West Bank and has reported that the three machines in southern Gaza are still working and producing some of the only clean drinking water available in these communities, David Lehrer, the institute’s former director, told The Times of Israel.

Four additional Watergens are in northern Gaza, where fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas terrorists is intense. It remains unclear whether they are still functioning.

All of the machines are equipped with solar panels to enable them to work without electricity.

Watergen is owned by billionaire Michael Mirilashvili, who subsidized half the cost of each machine, with the Friends of the Arava Institute raising the rest of the funds, and buying the solar panels.

In this April 30, 2020, photo, Palestinian engineer Raed Nakhal from Palestine Children Relief Fund, right, and engineer Abdullah Dewik, check the GEN-M machine that generates safe drinking water from air at the roof of al-Rantisi pediatric hospital in Gaza City. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In 2020, Watergen installed a device in Al-Rantisi pediatric hospital in northern Gaza as part of a collaboration with the water and power Palestinian company, Mayet Al Ahel. The hospital closed earlier this month after repeated warnings from the IDF to evacuate. On Monday the IDF revealed that Hamas operated a command center and likely held hostages in the hospital.

The Arava Institute carries out research and brings together Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis, and participants from around the world to study environmental issues and build personal relationships to protect shared environmental resources and serve as a model for cross-border cooperation.

Gaza’s overused aquifer has been degraded by saltwater intrusion and contaminated by pollutants, making most available water salty and dangerous to drink and forcing the import of bottled water during regular times.

Most of Gaza’s desalination machines rely on scarce fuel to run and have also been shut down, while Israel reduced the amount of water it supplies to Gaza.

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