Reimagining water tank design in the Amazon nets students international water prize

Posted 29 August 2018

Water tankA group of students in Peru has developed an innovative system to harvest rainwater in the Amazon, where two-thirds of the population lives without adequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation despite high levels of rainfall.

The students, from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PCUP), designed a community-led water management system that captures, stores and treats rainwater and channels it into preexisting water networks.

Unlike a traditional water tank, the students developed a more flexible system that uses a series of tubes to capture rainfall. The number of tubes can be increased or decreased according to the community’s water needs and easily integrate into existing architecture by acting as a non-load-bearing wall.

The project was the inaugural winner of the World Architecture Festival’s Water Research Prize, beating a shortlist of 12 projects to take out the top honours.

Entrants were asked to identify a new challenge or opportunity relating to design and water, and in doing so advance an understanding of water in relation to the built environment.

World Architecture Festival Program Director Paul Finch said the project was a “worthy winner”, particularly as there is the potential to replicate the design in similar environments.

“Ingeniously addressing the ironic condition that communities in the Amazon do not have adequate water despite having [high levels of rainfall], this proposed communal water management system admirably addresses both the social and environmental challenges interlinked with water shortage and quality,” he said.

The team received a £10,000 (AU$17,500) prize, which PCUP teaching fellow Belen Desmaison said they will use to continue to explore alternatives for the provision of water to peri-urban and rural areas. 

“We aim to use this opportunity to work on the production of a rainwater storage system made using local materials and knowledge that can be easily integrated with traditional architectural typologies,” he said.

The World Architecture Festival released a manifesto last year identifying key challenges architects need to address over the next 10 years, including access to water.

Finch said it is important for architects to recognise their role in making people’s lives better through design.

“In a period of profound change across the world, architects will play an important part in creating cities, public places and landscapes that respond to the challenges we have identified,” he said.

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