Allensworth residents feel abandoned by company that makes water out of thin air

March 13, 2024
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
by Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Panels installed in Allensworth in Tulare County were expected to produce a gallon a day of drinking water by condensing water vapor from the air. Residents, though, say the company has stopped maintaining the equipment and many panels no longer work. SOURCE: Source Global presentation on Arizona Education Department website
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Jesse Vad, SJV Water

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Allensworth is one of the testing grounds for a hydropanel that creates drinking water out of thin air. But two years into the program, community members say the hydropanel company has left them high and dry while many of the hydropanels have broken down. 

Allensworth has struggled with arsenic-laced groundwater for decades. In 2021, Source Global, the company behind the hydropanels, installed two in Allensworth to test out the technology. 

Each panel generates about a gallon of drinking water per day by condensing water vapor in the air into liquid form. 

In 2022, a philanthropic organization bought 1,000 hydropanels to be installed throughout the Central Valley. Allensworth now has about 42 panels, according to Source Global. 

Allensworth has a population of about 512, which means it needs at least 1.5 million gallons a month, given average consumption of 3,000 gallons per person per month.

This is a pilot project so the panels aren’t piping water into people’s homes but residents with working panels can access the water through outside spigots.

Some of the panels still work. And when it works, the technology is valuable, said Kayode Kadara, community leader in Allensworth.  

It’s, “so viable, so useful, so important in our world today,” said Kadara. “It has great value.” 

Kayode Kadara, a community leader in Allensworth, fills a glass with water from a Source Global panel. SOURCE: Source Global presentation on Arizona Department of Education website

But now, Source Global has mostly left Allensworth alone, said Kadara. It’s been disappointing and frustrating for residents. 

“To just abandon it and walk away just seems so wrong,” said Kadara.  

Staff at Source Global said the company is committed to fixing the situation in Allensworth and that it will continue working with the community. 

There has been some turnover within the California team which has caused challenges, said Colin Goddard, vice president at Source Global. 

“It’s tough to hear,” said Goddard of the community’s criticisms. “We are committed to working through all those things and continuing to invest and improve how we operate.” 

Some residents have removed the hydropanels from their yards because they weren’t working and were taking up space, said Kadara. The panels at the town’s community center haven’t worked for months, he added. 

The panels come with a five-year contractual obligation that includes support and customer service from Source Global. But the hydropanels don’t have a phone number or any contact information for residents to use. It’s one of the major flaws Kadara says he’s mentioned to Source Global over and over.

Kadara has reached out to Source Global’s support team about the panels that aren’t working. The company said it will send someone out to look at the panels, said Kadara. 

“They’ve messed up their reputation,” said Kadara. “They didn’t follow through and do anything to help move the project forward positively.”

Even with the issues, Kadara still believes in the technology and is impressed by it. He has two panels at his home that work surprisingly well. Recently, he got two gallons of water from each hydropanel in one day, more than is expected.  

Source Global has installed hydropanels in 50 countries around the world. 

Goddard says staff are determined to work with pilot communities, including Allensworth, for the long term, even past the five-year obligation. 

When the five-year contract is up, communities can take on the annual maintenance cost themselves or work with Source Global to seek funding sources to keep the costs covered, Goddard said. 

Kadara hopes things get back on track because, when working properly, he sees the hydropanels as a truly viable solution. 

“Things like this are helping people in regions like ours,” said Kadara. “The potential is just amazing.”

Jesse Vad, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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