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WV County Tackles Clean Water Crisis with New Hydropanels

A West Virginia community is solving a clean tap-water crisis with hydropanels that make water out of air. (Zero Mass Water)
A West Virginia community is solving a clean tap-water crisis with hydropanels that make water out of air. (Zero Mass Water)
December 6, 2019

KIMBALL, W.Va. – In McDowell County, West Virginia, access to clean tap water is a challenge for many. That's why one community is trying something different: a new technology called "hydropanels."

Linda McKinney, who heads the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank in Kimball, joined with manufacturer Zero Mass Water to have 24 hydropanels installed at her facility last month. They'll produce clean drinking water – about 950 gallons a month.

McKinney says it's a much-needed boon to local residents who otherwise rely on sometimes contaminated water from decaying coal-company water systems.

"You're dealing with some systems that the piping is 100 years or more old, and there was no funding – no money, no tax base – to take care of those systems,” says McKinney. “So, the food bank is so excited to be asked to be a part of this."

She says the hydropanels are like solar panels, but instead of using sunlight to create electricity, they pull moisture from the air and filter it with sunlight to produce clean water. How fast the panels gather and filter depends on the humidity and how much sunlight is available.

Zero Mass Water, which makes the hydropanels, partnered with the 'one2one USA Foundation' and the water-access advocacy group 'Dig Deep' to install the system in Kimball at no cost.

Kaitlyn Fitzgerald, communications director with Zero Mass Water, says each panel can hold up to eight gallons at a time in a reservoir. Fitzgerald says the company's goal is to help people around the globe who face water insecurity.

"This is a call to action,” says Fitzgerald. “We want to build partnerships, like what you see here in McDowell County. And we're excited to work with more community leaders, like the McKinneys, who are advocating on behalf of themselves and on behalf of their neighbors to fight for the human right that is access to safe drinking water."

She adds the company already installed similar arrays for communities facing water gaps in Kentucky and North Carolina, as well as Africa, Australia and India.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV