Altitude Water atmospheric water generators. Photos courtesy of Altitude Water.

Could We Hold On Long Enough For Alternative Energy Technology To Catch Up?

The water/energy nexus is a powerful commodity and never is it more evident than in California and in disaster relief situations. In California, it is estimated that 20 percent of the electrical use and 30 percent of the natural gas use is to move water.

“As the largest single consumer of electricity in California, the State Water Project (SWP) pump load ranges from 6,000,000 megawatt hours (MWh) to 9,500,000 MWh depending on the type of water year (dry, average, wet). The electricity is used to operate the SWP pumping plants, which are needed to deliver the water throughout the State.” (Source: California Department of Water Resources.)


In our disaster relief experiences, these two commodities are what the people need immediately. Whether a flood, hurricane, tornado or any other disaster, water and electricity go hand and hand as the “must haves now.”

While our atmospheric water generators (AWG) have been around for 14 years, the demand has increased significantly over the last three years. Why?

Fourteen years ago, solar panels were inefficient, and storage was a unit where we put all of our extra things we couldn’t fit in our house – not a battery to store electricity. We were still using heavy and antiquated lead acid batteries.

Then along came a company called Tesla that everyone thought was a car company, but to us in the industry it was a storage/battery company.

The first example was after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017 and the stories of Tesla getting the Hospital del Niño up and running. It rejuvenated the push for green technologies as a complete grid was in disarray and there was no timetable to get it operating.

Getting a children’s hospital functioning so quickly after the devastation was perfect for putting the world on notice that alternative energy could be the solution to our energy needs and a path to a future of cleaner disaster/recovery operations.

Unfortunately, business is hard and numerous roadblocks delayed this inevitable reality. While it seemed like a savior at the time, we quickly realized that changing anything – much less how an island receives its electricity – is not easy.

  1. Tesla tried to make an island with an antiquated grid its poster child for microgrids.
  2. Many delays and lessons were learned from this (cannot put new wine into an old wineskin).
  3. Regulations and the flow of money became bogged down.
  4. No one considered maintenance.

It was a classic example of the quote by the great philosopher Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” Tesla got punched in the face. There is always a choice in “effective charity” where the team must decide if the vision can overcome the obstacles. Is the plan sound or, after the punch in the face, can you re-evaluate?”

Altitude Water atmospheric water generators in Hawaii.
Altitude Water atmospheric water generators in Hawaii.

Or, as Jenean Smith, an executive at the non-profit Grid Alternatives, said by phone in a May 2019 Huffington Post article, “We see it with off-grid systems all around the world, where well-intentioned organizations will install systems, get a lot of PR, get funding upfront, then they leave. And there’s a disconnect between the PR and the reality on the ground.”

“The best way to avoid this,” Smith said, “is for companies or foundations that fund these projects to put aside extra money to hire and train maintenance staff.” In other words, programs.

After years of working in disaster relief and having experience in humanitarian projects, we get it. When [singer] Amy Grant called, needing more water in order to get her permit from Williamson County to gift her farm to Barefoot Republic Camp, we had a plan: Ship a T100 to her for increased water production to meet the need.

The next year, we got punched in the face. Uncharacteristically, the weather in June was less than 60 degrees. Our machines could not make enough water at these temperatures. What to do now? Quit or overcome?

We decided to be resistant and overcome. It became the R&D for making machines that adjust better to the temperature and increase storage and ozone capabilities. Now Grant’s farm has 500 gallons of storage and a plan to handle weather.

The water/energy nexus shows its face in using new technologies for old problems. Tesla also endured and learned from the experience in Puerto Rico. It is now more prepared to deal with disasters as we witnessed in Hawaii. The question isn’t, “Do you want to change the standard operating procedures in place now?” It’s “Do you have the endurance to overcome the obstacles in changing an industry?”

For both electricity and water, two of the standard municipal utilities, the answer has been an emphatic yes! We have learned that bigger is not always better (remember banks that were too big to fail?) and the importance of self-reliance and resilience.

Do we want to rely on the government for our basic needs or do we want to take back control of our necessities? We at Altitude Water knew this day would come. Would we be here to enjoy it?

Capturing water at the source is a concept that sounds too good to be true, but the fact is A/Cs have been doing it for years. Why not tap into that source of clean water? In a way, nature has cleansed water since the world was formed. (We have the same amount of water on this earth now as we did then.) With the advancement of solar and wind, you can now have that available anywhere. We no longer must rely on our municipalities and government to supply us our needs.

We no longer must use the water/energy nexus to transport water from here to there (like in California), but instead use energy to harvest water at the source, which will decrease the carbon footprint of transportation and plastic containers.

It’s not a question of “can we?” It’s more a challenge of “will we?”

Headline photo: Altitude Water atmospheric water generators. Photos courtesy of Altitude Water.

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Chief Operations Office -

Jeff Szur is chief operations officer at Altitude Water, a leading manufacturer and installer of several types of atmospheric water generators (AWGs) from residential and light commercial machines to heavy duty military-grade machines that produce water anytime, anywhere. Szur is widely respected for his vast knowledge and skill and decades of experience in creating pure water. Szur’s expertise is recognized by The Weather Channel; the Red Cross, Environmental Directions with Nancy PearlmanUS Marines, Camp Le Jeune; World Vision, Noah’s Arc, Kuhului, Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii; Maka ProjectCameroon-Jean-Felicien, Gacha Foundation,; Equador – Universidad de Catolica Guayaquil, and the first Solar/Water Disaster Relief partnered with New Use Energy Solutions (NUE), a Phoenix-based manufacturer of mobile solar solutions. 

Other successful clean water projects Szur has provided AWGs include The Water Awareness Project, Hurricane Idalia, Florida, disaster relief trailer at Pu’uhonua o Nēnē shelter in Kuhului, water distribution in our community for the last five years during hurricane preparedness, Orlando Magic Advent Health Center, Solar Water Trailers in New Orleans, water for athletes at Sports Academy in Port St. Lucie, and Amy Grant Farm, Franklin, Tennessee. Szur has been a speaker and panel member for numerous water trade shows over the last 14 years in addition to donating his time to various academic programs in schools throughout the United States. One robotics club won the most innovative award under Szur’s tutelage.

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