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Teatro del Agua
Teatro del Agua

In the ad-laden documentary Building the Future: The Quest for Water, produced by and broadcast last week on the Discover Channel, there was a featured segment on the Teatro del Agua, or Water Theater.

It's a desalination plant of sorts, designed by Grimshaw in collaboration with Charlie Paton for the post-industrial port area of Las Palmas in Spain's Canary Islands.

Teatro del Agua

How does it work? According to Grimshaw: “The essence of the idea is to couple a series of evaporators and condensers such that the airborne moisture from the evaporators is then collected from the condensers, which are cooled by deep seawater. This produces large quantities of distilled water from seawater and is almost entirely driven by renewable energy. The structure is orientated perpendicular to the prevailing northeasterly wind to obtain a supply of ambient air. The flow rate is controlled by louvres on the leeward side, which also incorporates solar panels to provide heat for the evaporators.”

If you have a distaste for textual descriptions and rather watch an animation, simply head on over to here. It's the third one on the list.

Disappointingly both video and project statement do not give estimates on water production. Will it really provide, as the video says, “enough for a city”? At all times or only during particularly high humid and windy days?

We also hear from the video that it “needs no fuel.” Is it really self-evaporating and self-condensing? No fossil fuel is needed?

The very curious really want to know.

Teatro del Agua

Quoting a bit more of the project statement: “The intention is to exploit the natural resources of the island, focusing on its two unique geographic features: steep beaches meaning that the cold water of the deep ocean is close to hand and can be siphoned off for air conditioning, and a steady wind direction that can be harnessed for the production of fresh water. The result should be the world's first harbourside development that is entirely cooled and irrigated by natural means.”

Teatro del Agua

And here we are left to wonder why this “dramatic sculptural form” is relegated to a corner of the marina when it should invade the whole island, bifurcating up to the mountains, snaking out to sea, invading the entire archipelago and nearby Africa, recoiling, perambulant, up and down the Atlantic coast of the parched continent, crossing the Sahara towards the Middle East, saving all from the devastation of the Global Hydrological War.


Fog Water Project
  • adam
  • July 1, 2007 at 3:45:00 PM CDT
  • Seem to be a great idea - but where the heck did that theater come from!

    Looks like they finished the whole project, suddenly discovered its "great" potential and then attached some seats.

    It just feels completely incoherent.

  • Chris
  • July 12, 2007 at 4:25:00 PM CDT
  • Bottom line... at least this creates awareness on the importance of water shortages and how we can use natures way of obtaining water without using other
    expensive energy cost to produce pure drinking water! My compliments to all on this project as I am thinking of bringing this to reality in several dry areas where it is badly needed.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • July 12, 2007 at 4:34:00 PM CDT
  • Excellent, Chris! Let us know how it goes with your projects. We'll be very, very interested to know about them.

  • Anonymous
  • August 21, 2007 at 8:09:00 AM CDT
  • What I'd be interested to know is what happens to the salt left behind? Presumably there is maintenance involved here. What are the energy/labour costs in replacing/cleaning the thousands of individual metal cells where the salt accumulates?

  • Anonymous
  • November 16, 2009 at 11:05:00 PM CST
  • Only a portion of the water in the incoming seawater will be evaporated; the remainder will be returned to the ocean as more concentrated brine, taking the salt along with it. Very little salt will remain behind in the evaporator/recondenser lattice --- basically, only that due to wind-blown spray, which proper design should minimize.

    The Water Theatre does indeed require some external source of energy to pump the cold seawater through the conduits up from the deep ocean and lift it up to the evaporators. However, the amount of energy required is much smaller than is required for other methods of desalinization, such as flash-distillation or reverse-osmosis.

  • Anonymous
  • January 1, 2011 at 3:59:00 AM CST
  • Will the salt going back to the ocean make at some point the ocean more salty? Will this be like adding more salt and then we will have another problem later from pouring back the salt in the ocean? I am a little confused as I am trying to analized and using logic in all the angles, and its ultimate consequences.

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