Photo of Juan Manuel Lemus

Energy & sustainability

Juan Manuel Lemus

Obtaining safe water from air humidity and suppling vulnerable communities with it

Year Honored


Latin America

Hails From

Three out of ten people worldwide have no access to safe water in their homes, which sums up to a total of 2.1 billion inhabitants in this situation, according to recent figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). To make matters worse, these people are not evenly allocated around the planet: they are usually set in developing countries.

In light of this situation, the Colombian entrepreneur, Juan Manuel Lemus, set a goal for himself: to find a way to provide safe water to vulnerable communities in an efficient and ecological manner. The young man states, “I wanted to contribute in a way in which technology could be available to the most susceptible groups.”

Therefore he created APUNAJAA, Water for Guajira, Colombia. Inspiration came from “apunajaa” which is a word from the Wayuunaiki language and it means “to sow." To sow water for Guajira is the objective of APUNAJAA, its slogan is “the answer is in the air." This is due to Juan Manuel's focus on obtaining water from water condensation and from air moisture. The young man details, “We wanted to recreate the hydrologic cycle of water in a mechanical manner.” This has awarded him as one of the winners of the Latin American Innovators Under 35 from the MIT Technology Review LATAM edition.

His invention consists of “a device of high efficiency that dehumidifies the air and condenses the water" as explained by Lemus. For his method to work it needs solar energy, and when the sun doesn't shine, the gadget uses thermal batteries instead of lead ones. The condensation of water in the devices' walls can also be achieved with renewable energy thanks to wind. Afterwards, the condensed droplets are gathered in a reservoir where they cool down naturally. “Obtaining water from air's humidity is one of the most efficient systems today and with the smallest environmental impact," Lemus points out.

Due to its own functioning, the device is designed for high temperature zones. As a matter of fact, originally the device was intended to service the Guajira region exclusively. But now, Lemus is hoping his device will reach more regions that have no access to clean water. The young man shares, “In all parts of the world there is moisture in the atmosphere. This is a device, that using an all existing matter, can save lives and saving lives is what we want.”

The director of The Pasteur Institute for Technological Transference of Montevideo, Uruguay, Atilio Deana, and a member of the jury for the 2019 Latin American Innovators Under 35, considers it a “very interesting project" and he admires “the social impact it has by offering safe water to vulnerable communities as well as its potential to replicate other solutions in many regions of the globe affected by drought.”