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Latest Willie Nelson venture: Water from Air
Austin360 ^ | Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Pamela LeBlanc

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.


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Music/Entertainment; Society
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 10/14/2008 6:12:24 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

The Fremen will be interested... and we know that Willie Nelson likes “the spice” .


2 posted on 10/14/2008 6:14:19 PM PDT by ikka
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To: ikka

That’s just so.... dune-ish.


3 posted on 10/14/2008 6:16:04 PM PDT by xcamel (Conservatives start smart, and get rich, liberals start rich, and get stupid.)
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To: nickcarraway

I already own one of those.

Its called a dehumidifier.


4 posted on 10/14/2008 6:18:41 PM PDT by EyeGuy (Obama will deliver America on a Leash to an envious world.)
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To: nickcarraway

“BioWillie”

hehhehheh


5 posted on 10/14/2008 6:20:16 PM PDT by hsrazorback1 (To get what you had, do what you did.)
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To: nickcarraway

I’m starting to think that all of those fattys Willie burned have fried his brain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


6 posted on 10/14/2008 6:20:42 PM PDT by mrmargaritaville
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To: nickcarraway
A patent is pending on the process Wataire's machines use to clean the water and make it drinkable.

So they put a water filter on an air conditioner. People should also be careful about drinking water without minerals in it.

7 posted on 10/14/2008 6:21:04 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: EyeGuy

Remember: It’s all about marketing.


8 posted on 10/14/2008 6:22:43 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: ikka

The real trick is encapulating all the planets water, so that we need to take out of the air. You need sandtrout for that.


9 posted on 10/14/2008 6:23:21 PM PDT by NYFriend
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To: nickcarraway

bmflr


10 posted on 10/14/2008 6:23:56 PM PDT by Kevmo (I love that sound and please let that baby keep on crying. ~Sarah Palin)
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To: nickcarraway

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 !!!!


11 posted on 10/14/2008 6:25:42 PM PDT by RightWingNut
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To: nickcarraway

Stick a bunch of big metal vanes in the air.

Collect the condenstation at the bottom.

requirers no electricity at all.


12 posted on 10/14/2008 6:26:31 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: nickcarraway
Been there, done that. Went off to fight the empire, had complicated feelings for my sister.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
13 posted on 10/14/2008 6:26:52 PM PDT by cripplecreek (Paying taxes for bank bailouts is apparently the patriotic thing to do. [/sarc])
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To: nickcarraway

Ooooo, I’m really impressed! ...got any copper bracelets, grounding crystals or magnets to go with that?


14 posted on 10/14/2008 6:29:17 PM PDT by familyop (cbt. engr. (cbt), NG, '89-'96, Duncan Hunter or no-vote)
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To: RightWingNut

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.


15 posted on 10/14/2008 6:31:21 PM PDT by ER_in_OC,CA
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To: nickcarraway

I believe the technical term for these is “dehumidifiers”.


16 posted on 10/14/2008 6:42:45 PM PDT by George Smiley (Palin is the real deal.)
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To: nickcarraway
and just how much electricity does it take to make 12oz of water???
17 posted on 10/14/2008 6:49:10 PM PDT by Chode (American Hedonist - McCain/Palin'08 = http://www.johnmccain.com/)
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To: nickcarraway

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.


18 posted on 10/14/2008 6:52:16 PM PDT by pabianice (Inexplicable and infuriating.)
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To: nickcarraway

don’t we already have something like this, called a de-humidifier?


19 posted on 10/14/2008 6:55:16 PM PDT by annelizly
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To: EyeGuy

Exactly, and he’s welcome to come over and empty mine whenever he wants to.


20 posted on 10/14/2008 6:55:20 PM PDT by JZelle
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To: JZelle

And Willie grows his own medicine, how earth-friendly he is.


21 posted on 10/14/2008 7:01:41 PM PDT by chuknchez
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To: nickcarraway

Could this thing be used to give people in third world countries “clean” (or cleaner) drinking water?


22 posted on 10/14/2008 7:19:50 PM PDT by BILLNHILL MAKE ME ILL (Never forget our troops or what they are doing for us...)
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To: BILLNHILL MAKE ME ILL

Yea, but they kinda need electricity to run it. I have a feeling electricity costs more in third world countries than it does here!

But, maybe, they could break down the hydrogen and oxygen in the water to power a fuel cell that can then power a generator that can run the water maker.

Then, they could have enough left over water and electricity to buy the American Dream.


23 posted on 10/14/2008 8:01:06 PM PDT by Bartholomew Roberts
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To: nickcarraway

Willie discovered clouds? ;^)


24 posted on 10/14/2008 8:09:11 PM PDT by TigersEye (This is the age of the death of reason.)
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