Company founders Sid Vollebregt (left) and Reinoud Feenstra at the solar panels

Elemental Water Makers – The Virgin Islands’ solution for affordable fresh water production

Photography courtesy of Elemental Water Makers and Jerome Glasgow
Here in the British Virgin Islands during 2015, if there is one common wish among residents, it is for more rain; not that it’s desired to see ‘British weather’ of course, but a little extra rain would be a blessing.
Our vegetables aren’t growing and our cisterns are running dry, and the solutions to desalinate and provide the community with fresh water are anything but cheap. Luckily for us, there is a brand new cost-efficient and eco-friendly solution which has made its market debut right here in the BVI on Great Camanoe.
Elemental Water Makers (EWM) is the only company of its kind with “a new and patent-pending configuration which enables constant desalination using only fluctuating renewable energy which enables fresh water at lower costs than previously possible,” said Sid Vollebregt, managing director of EWM.
“Desalination is the process of removing dissolved salts from saline water for the production of fresh water. The preferred desalination technology is reverse osmosis,” – Sid Vollebregt.
The company was founded in the spring of 2012 after two engineers, Sid Vollebregt and Reinoud Feenstra fresh from Delft University of Technology successfully completed a field pilot in Indonesia, resulting in the innovation of a reverse osmosis system that can run continuously without electricity, using only fluctuating renewable energy of the sun, wind and/or waves. This is realised by incorporating an elevated water buffer to cope with the periods absent of renewable energy. The required elevation has been reduced by 80% through energy recovery.
Submersible seawater resistant pump
Hailing from the Netherlands where fresh water is abundant and accessible, EWM wished to find a solution for fresh water scarcity in areas where it was a problem. The places where desalination is necessary is usually around the equator and on islands which have access to a vast amount of water, but little of it is fresh.
“As our solution is driven by renewable energy, the shortest payback time and the biggest cost savings can be achieved at regions with high electricity prices,” said Sid.
The BVI was chosen by EWM as the location for their market entry as the Virgin Islands specifically has some of the highest electricity prices globally.
[one_half] The elevated water buffer [/one_half][one_half_last] DSC_1989 [/one_half_last]

This year in 2015, the BVI also experienced a drastic decrease in total rainfall, and a drought warning was set in place by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM). For residents, this became highly problematic, especially those who had to pay significantly high prices to order fresh water when their cistern tanks ran dry.
“We can realise a payback between five to eight years after the installation, depending on the size of the water demand and the exact location. When taking a financial lifetime of 15 years, this means a return on investment of over 100% and cost savings in the order of 30-70%,” said Sid.

[one_half] Water bottle [/one_half]
[one_half_last] Loading the reverse osmosis membranes [/one_half_last][one_half] The desalination system producing 3300 gallons per day on Great Camanoe [/one_half][one_half_last] Water quantity and quality monitoring (3)[/one_half_last]

EWM offer solutions for projects of all types including resorts, businesses, communities, or entire municipalities. The project undertaken in Great Camanoe was a private residency belonging to Paul Serini, who now enjoys more than 3,300 gallons of fresh water daily thanks to his new system. This installation saves 63% in comparison with his former electricity-driven reverse osmosis system, while avoiding 25 tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions per year.

“My family and I selected Elemental Water Makers to provide fresh water for our home in the British Virgin Islands because they presented us with a cost effective solution to creating a continuous supply of very high quality water without monthly electrical bills and without using fossil fuels,” said Paul Serini, owner of the residence on Great Camanoe.

Using unlimited resources of the sea, sun, earth, and wind while avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, the BVI and USVI have an innovative way to solve their challenges with fresh water scarcity and save money in doing so. The team at EWM are excited to break into the Caribbean market and wish to provide their solutions to areas throughout the world.

This is what Elemental Water Makers has to offer:

– Savings of 70% on water expenses by avoiding the use of electricity

– Reliability of production assured by using mature technology

– Off-grid installation yearly preventing tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions

– Stress-free operation and minimized maintenance through remote monitoring and automation

– Runs silent by excluding high-pressure pumps and generators

– Easily scalable from a few thousands up to hundreds of thousands gallons per day

Sid Vollebregt,

Managing Director Elemental Water Makers

[email protected]