Jun 3, 2021

Upcycling Water in Atacama Desert


hile and the world face great challenges as a consequence of climate change that require concrete, collaborative and active action from all sectors of society to mitigate its impact.

Grey is the New Green

Over the next 3 years we will work to implement 2 pilot projects that will recycle treated grey water from buildings to establish Urban Green Spaces (UGS) alongside with capacity building of communities in the city of Antofagasta in the North of Chile.

Our project UWAD - Upcycling Water in Atacama Desert is the WINNER of the international competition “SUMATE BHP: WALKING TOGETHER TOWARDS CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION”.

Our interdisciplinary team will work 3 years creating better life conditions in the North of Chile: Social Cities 2030, Architecture & Human Rights, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, ARGES, ICK Engineering and our partners the Chilean Ministry of Housing MINVU and the Ministry of Education MINEDUC-JUNJI.  

The competition was launched by BHP and Fundación Chile. Cecilia Azar, manager of Social Value Americas at BHP, expressed:

"we hope that, based on these pilot experiences, their executors can hope that in the future they will be scaled up and replicated in other territories nationwide".

Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest desert in the world. Antofagasta is the biggest city in this area, with the lowest rate of Urban Green Spaces (UGS) in Chile: 6 times less than the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization: 9 m2 per inhabitant.

This index affects the health condition of the population, from both a psychological and physical perspective. On the other hand, 90% of the Antofagasta inhabitants have no or scarce access to the UGS.

This phenomenon contributes to inequality and social unbalance. In many ways, this area suffers from the extreme environments, as drought and water scarcity. All drinking water is produced by desalination of seawater.

In the North of Chile, the main factor to improve Urban Green Spaces (UGS) is the access to the water. Greywater is a complete renewable source because people use water every day. Today, that resource is lost and led back into the sewerage system.

Our project will integrate a source separation system of grey and black water coming from households and public buildings and recycle 100% of the grey water.

We can recover 100L greywater per person every day, treat it with Scandinavian water technology, and reach the minimum standard of health = UGS recommended by WHO.

By implementing that resource in our planning of cities in extreme environments and drought, we can design for future green areas and urban biodiversity in the desert.