Skip to comments.Latest Willie Nelson venture: Water from Air
Posted on 10/14/2008 6:12:23 PM PDT by nickcarraway
RunTex owner wants to put water machines around Lady Bird Lake
When Willie Nelson kicks back on his ranch near Lake Travis, he sips water from a machine that condenses it right out of the air.
Now he's partnering with longtime friend Ed Russell of Dripping Springs to market and sell those machines through a company dubbed Willie Nelson's Water From Air. He's also working with the owner of the RunTex chain of athletic stores, which sells the water-makers, to connect the concept to Austin's running community.
And no, Nelson says he isn't in it for the money.
"This is going to ruin my image," Nelson says as he tosses down a cup of chilled water while standing on the front porch of a building that is part of an old movie set on his ranch in Spicewood. "They'll never believe 'Whiskey River' again."
But for fans who have paid attention, the singer's latest business venture fits right in with his eco-friendly outlook. In 2005, Nelson and three business partners formed a company called Willie Nelson's Biodiesel and started marketing BioWillie, a fuel made mainly of soybean oil, to truck stops. All three of Nelson's tour buses run on biodiesel, as do the tractors and lawn mowers at his ranch, where he's got a 600-gallon tank that holds the stuff.
Nelson also briefly had a line of bottled water, but canceled the contract last year after a legal disagreement.
Canadian scientist Roland Walghren developed the technology used in the water machines that Nelson is distributing about eight years ago. Wataire International Inc., based in California, acquired the technology in 2006 and is one of several companies marketing such water makers to disaster relief organizations, Third World companies, militaries and homeowners.
A patent is pending on the process Wataire's machines use to clean the water and make it drinkable. "It's not rocket science to collect the water, because any air conditioner can do that, but the trick was being able to clean it up," says company spokeswoman Mavis Robinson. "(Our machine) takes moisture from the air and turns it into potable water and is not depleting ground reserves."
Thousands of the cooler-sized machines have been sold in 47 countries including Australia, India, Mexico, Indonesia and the Phillipines, Robinson says. She says it costs about 8 cents a liter less than 25 cents per gallon to make water.
Nelson got into the business through a music relationship. When Canadian musician Derek Miller came to Austin to record with Double Trouble in February, he met Russell. Russell hand-delivered a song by the Canadian to Nelson as a favor. Nelson liked the song and ended up recording it with Miller. To repay Russell, Miller introduced him to Wataire, which shipped Russell a couple of sample water-making machines.
Russell gave one to Nelson, who set it up. "The next day, it was full of water," says Russell, now the Gulf Coast distributor of the machines. "He drank it, he liked it. He's for reducing plastics and this kind of helps do that."
Russell, who has about 50 of the machines stashed in his Dripping Springs garage, set up one of the machines at Poodie's Hilltop bar near Lake Travis, another at Esther's Follies and one each at RunTex's downtown and Lake Austin Boulevard locations. He's also considering installing a large one on the rooftop of Carl's Corner, a truck stop/music spot just south of Dallas that sells BioWillie biodiesel fuel.
The machine works like a de-humidifier, extracting moisture from the air, then pushing it through a series of filters before treating it with ultraviolet light to remove mold, bacteria, algae and other organisms. The water is stored in a reservoir, where it is chilled or heated for drinking.
A home-sized version of Wataire's machine, which is manufactured in South Korea, makes about 8 gallons of water a day in Austin's relatively high humidity. (In drier environments it makes about 4 or 5 gallons a day.) Larger versions of the machines can make 2,500 or 5,000 gallons a day.
"If you're a couple, that's all the water you need in a day," Nelson says of the smaller model. "Eight gallons is a lot. It's not as if you need to use it in the commode. No, we don't recommend you use it in your commode. It hasn't been cleared for the commode."
The home-sized machine sells for $1,699 and uses about 450 watts of electricity, the equivalent of four or five standard light bulbs, when it is fully running. It shuts off when the reservoir fills.
"Look. If I knock on a door with one of these machines and plug it in and say 'I'll come back tomorrow and you'll have 8 gallons of drinking water, and if you don't like it I'll pick it up,' I wouldn't have to pick many up," Nelson says. "Maybe I'm easy, but something that makes water out of the air that you can drink sounds like a good idea."
Paul Carrozza, the owner of the RunTex stores and a friend of Nelson's, likes the potential, too. He's considering putting an industrial-sized, solar-powered version of one of the water-makers on the hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake and rigging it with multiple dispenser hoses. Carrozza already provides free jugs of chilled water to runners using the trail.
"I want to rig it to a system with a bunch of feeders like a drinking trough for the most active community in the world," Carrozza says.
He has machines set up in two of his RunTex stores and encourages customers to drink water from them.
He also wants to work with Nelson, a sometimes runner. "I think he's a good hustler, and I want to utilize his skills," Carrozza chuckles.
"The water's good," Nelson says, sloshing back another glassful as the two hang out at Nelson's ranch. "I don't trust tap water in Austin or Dallas or Houston. All water that comes out of the ground has been violated in many ways. At least if it comes from the air it's got a better chance ... If you really don't trust tap water, this is a way to go around that."
He walks inside the wooden storefront building, part of the town of Luck in the 1986 movie "Red Headed Stranger," and removes his oversized dark sunglasses. "Here's the water machine over here," he says. "Want to try some?"
Terry Lickona, producer of the "Austin City Limits" television show, who's stopped in for a visit, takes him up on the offer.
"Tastes like fresh spring water to me," Lickona says.
Nelson just grins knowingly.
The Fremen will be interested... and we know that Willie Nelson likes “the spice” .
That’s just so.... dune-ish.
I already own one of those.
Its called a dehumidifier.
I’m starting to think that all of those fattys Willie burned have fried his brain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
So they put a water filter on an air conditioner. People should also be careful about drinking water without minerals in it.
Remember: It’s all about marketing.
The real trick is encapulating all the planets water, so that we need to take out of the air. You need sandtrout for that.
Let me get this straight.
This “water” is safe to drink, but it hasn’t been approved to flush a t**d down the toilet ??
NO THANKS !!!!
Stick a bunch of big metal vanes in the air.
Collect the condenstation at the bottom.
requirers no electricity at all.
Ooooo, I’m really impressed! ...got any copper bracelets, grounding crystals or magnets to go with that?
Pretty sure the commode line was a weak joke. The point is that the home model they’re discussing is not really feasible for home plumbing use since it generates just a few gallons a day.
I believe the technical term for these is “dehumidifiers”.
How frakin’ stupid. The energy required to condense water from water vapor in the air surpases the “savings” from the whole venture. Another Perpetual Motion Machine.
don’t we already have something like this, called a de-humidifier?
Exactly, and he’s welcome to come over and empty mine whenever he wants to.
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