I Drank Water That This Giant Steel Box Pulled From the Air at CES 2024
The Genesis Systems WaterCube takes water from the air and puts it in your pipes. It tasted better than the water from my hotel room tap here in Las Vegas.
Jon ReedSenior Editor
Jon Reed is an editor for CNET covering home energy, including solar panels and energy efficiency. Jon has spent more than a decade making a living by asking other people questions. He previously worked as an editor at NextAdvisor, focused on home loans and the housing market; as a statehouse reporter in Columbus, Ohio; and as a reporter in Birmingham, Alabama. When not asking people questions, he can usually be found half asleep trying to read a long history book while surrounded by cats.
I drank from the air of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and it was fine. That's not a metaphor. I saw a massive steel box at CES 2024 that harvests the humidity in the air and turns it into drinking water. Not that the Las Vegas desert and the convention center's massively air-conditioned halls are swimming in spare humidity, but luckily there was enough for me to sample this "convention water."
Someone from Genesis Systems poured a shot glass of cool, clear water from the company's WC-100 WaterCube. It tasted better than the tap water in my hotel, which I used to fill my water bottle. That water tastes like stagnant, three-week-old swimming pool water. The water from the WaterCube tasted clean, fresh and mineral-free.
The floor model of the WC-100 WaterCube I saw at the largest tech conference of the year stands more than 3 feet tall and weighs 800 pounds. The company told us that production models will weigh in closer to 600 pounds -- still very big.
The point of this massive piece of equipment? To pull H2O from the air and do for your water bill what solar panels can do for your electric bill: reduce it or even get rid of it completely.
But that "water independence" will cost you -- $20,000 on preorder, to be exact. "This is a whole new way of thinking. It's shifting the paradigm of how things are going with water," Genesis Systems CEO Sharon Stuckenberg told CNET.
Water from the air
The concept is familiar to anyone who's seen the original Star Wars and thought for a minute about what it meant that Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle were "moisture farmers." There's humidity in the air, even if just a little, and if you condense it with the right technology, you can create potable water literally out of thin air.
Genesis Systems has made bigger water systems that can produce thousands of gallons of water a day, but the home-scale model is set to produce about 100 gallons per day. That figure depends a lot on the humidity -- the 100 gallons was benchmarked at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity.
If it's less humid, the machine will still make water (Stuckenberg said it will produce down into the single digits of humidity), but it won't make as much. If it's more humid, it'll make even more.
The WC-100 model comes with a 50-gallon tank, but Stuckenberg and Genesis Systems EVP Kevin Barton suggested that combining the WaterCube with a larger storage tank system could help a household effectively manage its water needs.
Ditch the water bill?
Eliminating the water bill may sound tempting, but there's that price tag to consider. Available financing would look like a monthly payment of $200 to $250 for several years, Barton said. Household water bills are variable and can range from $30 to $300 a month, for example.
Genesis Systems said the price tag will likely come down in the future. Right now, the best you can do is reserve a model for $500.
With the rise of wild weather and climate change, technology like solar panels, a home battery on wheels and, yes, maybe even water harvesting, are likely to gain momentum. Or at least -- in the case of a 600-plus pound, $20,000 water harvester -- attention.