UCSB recently installed a portable sustainable water system (a big title for something that looks like a refrigerator) which appears to produce water out of nothing.

The new system, which is currently set up in a test site next to the tennis courts on campus, converts humidity into fresh water. The portable machine captures moisture from the air, then condenses, filters and stores the byproduct. Campus sustainability coordinators hope the machine can significantly reduce the university’s carbon footprint over time.

According to UCSB alumnus Tyson Shackelford, the owner of Santa Barbara Water Company in Goleta, which approached UCSB with the concept, the device filters water three times: after condensation, in storage and when the water is being dispensed.

“We’re on the brink of producing fresh water on a mass scale that’s convenient, safe, can be accessed by all income levels and countries and can be powered by renewable energy sources,” Shackelford said.

The small machine, which can operate virtually anywhere, can produce five to eight gallons of water a day, making it a revolutionary device for developing countries in need of fresh water and developed nations seeking environmentally friendly water conservation options.

“Bad water kills between 20 to 30 million people a year [worldwide],” he said. “People die from diseases such as dysentery and cholera. … This could solve the human dilemma of having fresh water.”

Aside from producing water, Shackelford said the multi-purpose machine, which resembles a water cooler, also filters air and dehumidifies the room it’s in.

The Santa Barbara Water Company is currently installing the system in businesses and homes and intends to produce the device on a mass scale in order to operate whole cities.

“The science has been around ever since refrigeration, the problem is that no one ever thought about converting it to a water source until 10 to 11 years ago,” Shackelford said.

Although the system retails for $1,595, Shackelford said the product is cost-efficient compared to the price of bottled water.

In addition to implementing the new water system, environmental groups on campus are striving to preserve resources via water conservation projects.

Andrew Dunn, co-chair of the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board and a fifth-year film and media studies major, said EAB is currently working to improve the drinking fountain and water filtration systems on campus as well as reduce the community’s reliance on water bottles.

“As the population of UCSB will be expanding by 5,000 during the next decade, we believe it’s vital to ensure we properly manage our water supplies,” Dunn said in an e-mail. “[EAB] worked with UCSB Dining Services on the Trayless Challenge, which eliminated trays from all our dining commons and now saves UCSB 1,000,000 gallons of water per year.”