August 11, 2022
It is an image that plagues large parts of Europe: extreme drought. Even the Netherlands, known for its exceptional water management, is facing an official water shortage . Research by Dutch newspaper NRC has shown that Western Europe hot temperatures have moved 500 kilometres north in the last 50 years, increasing summer air temperatures by more than 1°C .
The current Dutch summer now resembles a French summer of yesteryear. In the past decade, temperatures in the Netherlands were equivalent to those in large parts of central France in the 1970s. Instead, summers in central France are now roughly as warm as in northern Spain in the 1970s, which in turn now features southern Spain temperatures .
The climate crisis, severe droughts and population growth has put pressure on the scarce global freshwater resources and led to severe water shortages in many regions of the world. At the same time, global water demand is expected to rise by 55 % by 2050, and 25 % of large cities already suffer from water stress . Likewise, many municipalities in Spain and France had to cut off households’ drinkable water this summer.
To find a solution, we need a different approach. Crossovers between art and science allow to break through established patterns and can lead to radical innovations. This mentality enabled Dutch artist Ap Verheggen to develop SunGlacier, an innovative company specialized in solar-powered sculptures that can produce water from thin air . His “counter-intuitive aim” [was] to create ice and water in the desert by making use of solar energy” . “Sun, gravity and air are widely and freely available everywhere. They do the work.” .
SunGlacier is in fact a water multiplier. It blows outdoor air through an artificial cold rain shower. The water vapor of the outdoor air condenses against the cold falling water droplets and increases their volume. The result is a growing waterfall, as depicted in Figure 1. The air cooler and the water pump ensure that water is regularly pumped to the rain shower .
Fig. 1: SunGlacier’s Growing Waterfall Technology. Source: SunGlacier.
From the beginning, the company has focused on a portable size off-grid application, powered by solar energy. This led to the creation of an incredibly efficient system capable of producing large amounts of water with low energy consumption .
SunGlacier is planning to build an industrial prototype with a Dutch mechanical engineering corporation and have ongoing negotiations with a company supplying horticultural greenhouse system. With SunGlacier’s technology, they intend to make closed ecosystem greenhouses.
The potential impact of Verheggen’s water machine is immense. If his now patented invention can be applied worldwide, millions of people in arid regions could gain access to drinking water. It would also make farming possible in places where this is now unthinkable. Verheggen is however more cautious: “Hopefully, in five years, tens of thousands of SunGlaciers will have been sold. This will not solve any immediate global problems, but this invention can help take the pressure off drinking water and food supply problems in the long run” .
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 Chest, T. (2022, 3 August). The Netherlands officially has a water shortage, cabinet comes with distribution plan. (Translated by Author). Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2022/08/03/nederland-heeft-officieel-watertekort-kabinet-komt-met-verdeelplan-a4138041
 Van Loon, W. (2022, 22 July). Climate shift: those long hot French summers of the 1970s are now found in the Netherlands. (Translated by Author). Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2022/07/22/klimaatverschuiving-die-lange-hete-franse-zomers-uit-de-jaren-70-vind-je-nu-in-nederland-2-a4137119
 Salehi, M. (2022). Global water shortage and potable water safety; Today’s concern and tomorrow’s crisis. Environment International, 158, 106936. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106936
 Dreissen, F. (2022, 31 July). Inventor and artist from Sittard makes water flow in desert: ‘The planet has gone mad, I want to help the world’. (Translated by Author). Retrieved 8 August, from https://www.limburger.nl/cnt/dmf20220729_92844024
 SunGlacier. (n.d.). News. Retrieved 8 August, from https://sunglacier.nl/
 Ribbens, A. (2022, 15 June). Rain in the desert: the water machine of artist Ap Verheggen. (Translated by Author). Retrieved 8 August, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2022/06/15/je-moet-ongebaande-paden-durven-in-te-slaan-a4133539
Cover and preview image: Hessel Waalewijn, copyright-free photo from SunGlacier.