A Billboard That Makes Drinkable Water Out of Thin Air

By Ashley Peterson

A new billboard in Lima, Peru is attracting a great deal of attention and bringing a message of hope to an area that has long faced serious water challenges. The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) and an ad agency called Mayo DraftFCB created the structure to serve as a resource for residents and also to inspire would-be engineers to apply to the university.

A Town in Danger of Running Dry

Lima, Peru’s capital is the fifth largest city in the Americas and is home to 1.2 million people. It’s located in a type of climate known as a coastal desert where the annual rainfall is less than an inch. As a result, many residents have to get their water from polluted wells or expensive unregulated private-company water trucks.

Despite the city’s almost non-existent precipitation, the region experiences humidity levels of up to 98%. This led UTEC researchers to try and find a way to convert the humid air to water.

UTEC and Mayo Draft FCB designed and launched the first-ever billboard able to harvest and purify the moisture-rich air into potable drinking water.


Photo credit: Draftfcb / UTEC

Sending a Powerful Message and Solving a Serious Problem

The billboard reads, “A billboard that produces drinking water from air” and since its installation, the structure has produced almost 25 gallons of water a day.

The billboard uses a reverse osmosis filtration system to convert the air moisture into liquid. The air goes through an air filter, condenser and carbon filter before ultimately collecting into 20-liter storage tanks. Locals can access the water through a faucet at the bottom of the billboard.

The billboard has not only become a local attraction, but has also quickly become an indispensable part of life in the neighboring villages. The concept might spread to other troubled spots around the world as the UN and other international leaders have recently called for greater solutions to the global water crisis.

In addition to addressing a serious environmental issue, the marketing campaign aims to inspire potential students by illustrating how engineers and scientists work to solve social needs on a daily basis though technology and innovation.

Classroom Discussion

  • How has climate change affected water sources in coastal desert areas such as Lima?
  • How does lack of access to clean water hinder the social, economic and healthy growth of societies?