The billboard turning thin air into water

Residents in rural Peru have received 15,000 litres of clean drinking water this year, courtesy of a billboard that has been making it out of thin air.

Residents in rural Peru have received 15,000 litres of clean drinking water this year, courtesy of a billboard that has been making it out of thin air.

Conceived by ad agency Mayo Draftfcb and co-produced by outdoor advertising provider Clear Channel and Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology, the billboard cost around $32,000 to make. The original intention, say Draftfcb, was to encourage the recruitment of engineering students to UTEC.

It works by condensing vapour in the air (humidity in the region is around 98 per cent) into water, before passing it through a series of filters and running it under UV lamps for further purification. The clean water is then collected in a tank and dispensed through a tap which can be used by anyone walking past.

Since its installation late last year, Clear Channel claims the billboard has produced an average of 96 litres of water a day and is used by between 15 and 18 families in Bujama; a village around 100km south of Lima. As one of the world’s largest desert capitals and with an average annual rainfall of just 0.5 inches, Lima is a region in desperate need of water, and the billboard has become an invaluable resource.


The campaign has won multiple awards including Grand Prix at the Internationalist Awards for Innovation in Media and a Festival of Media Public Service Award. It’s a clever way of utilising the environmental potential of existing structures at very little cost.

When it was first unveiled, we hoped this was something that could be rolled out in other regions where access to drinking water is scarce: Clear Channel already owns advertising space in several Latin American and Asian countries that have similar levels of humidity. But despite its success in Bujama, representatives at Clear Channel say there are no plans yet to introduce similar billboards in other locations.

This doesn’t take away from the brilliance of its Bujama billboard but by choosing not to develop this project further, Clear Channel risks having its campaign viewed as just a PR stunt rather than an effective environmental initiative. The company has the potential to use this technology to impact thousands more lives, and we hope it – or someone else – will.

UPDATE: This story was updated in order to credit agency Mayo Draftfcb

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