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Managing the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Sustainable Solutions for the Water Crisis

Water scarcity is a problem plaguing our planet; the ramifications are immense and have a ripple effect on other resources. The UN has defined the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach (WEF Nexus or Nexus) as a concept to describe and address the complex and interrelated nature of our global resource systems on which we depend to achieve different social, economic, and environmental goals. Atoco’s atmospheric water harvesting technology promotes a sustainable, low-energy, and eco-resilient water supply; our solutions can fight water scarcity while restoring the balance within the WEF Nexus.

Arid zones: the perfect storm for climate challenges

The interplay between the water crisis, energy, and food security problems is evident in our world’s arid zones. Defined by the UN as areas with annual rainfall of less than 250 mm, sparse vegetation, and evaporation exceeding precipitation, they are the ground zero of the worldwide water crisis. Water scarcity, energy-intensive irrigation, and the food security needs of an expanding population create a “perfect storm of climate challenges.” Illustrated in much of the Middle East and North Africa, where more than 85% of freshwater resources are devoted to agriculture, this situation threatens water and food security and amplifies energy consumption and environmental stress.


As populations in these areas continue to rise, water tables and aquifers will be depleted, and human and environmental well-being will be increasingly fraught. Atoco’s approach, based on advances in reticular chemistry, tackles the problem at its core to combat water scarcity more effectively.

The rate and efficiency of PCC solutions can be extremely high, with capabilities of capturing more than 90% of the CO2 from flue gas streams. The higher the concentration of CO2 in these flows, the more cost-effective these technologies are.


The other commonly used carbon capture method is direct air capture (DAC). This method involves CO2 that has already been emitted into the atmosphere being removed from ambient air. DAC is usually less effective and more costly. The gas in the atmosphere is already highly diluted and dispersed; however, the CO2 captured by DAC can still be offset against emissions. While current PCC and DAC technologies may sound impressive, the efforts currently made are still falling short in our fight against climate change.


MOFs: unlocking water harvesting potential

Atoco’s atmospheric water harvesting technology addresses the interconnected challenges of the WEF Nexus. Atmospheric water harvesting is the term for various technologies that induce precipitation or extract moisture from ambient air. Atoco’s atmospheric water harvesting solution is unique, leveraging reticular materials engineered with atomic precision. Atoco has engineered reticular materials called Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), which we use to selectively capture water molecules from the air and store them until they are released as potable water. MOFs have large internal surface areas; just a gram of reticular material has a surface area equal to that of a soccer field. This abundance of surface area on MOFs makes it possible for these materials to adsorb and store significant amounts of water that can be harvested and used to support communities and agriculture in arid regions.

Balancing the WEF Nexus

Atoco’s novel technology produces water that is clean, immediately potable, ready for use, and complies with WHO/EPA standards. Because our atmospheric water harvesting technology is self-regulating, our solutions are continuously monitored, which lowers expenses by reducing in-person inspections and unforeseen downtimes. Atoco’s solutions for water harvesting, using MOFs, can function off-grid and are able to be powered by either active or passive energy, meaning they can run with little or no electricity and have the ability to be powered by solar energy in areas with humidity below 20%. Additionally, because Atoco’s materials are recyclable, they can be re-used tens of thousands of times with little impact on their efficiency. Our technology operates with few moving parts, reducing the risk of becoming defective. Atoco’s work in reticular chemistry addresses the individual challenge of water scarcity and presents practical, scalable, affordable, and cohesive solutions.


Atoco’s atmospheric water harvesting aligns with global sustainability goals by harvesting water directly from the air and not depleting natural resources like groundwater or surface water. Our MOF-based solutions solve the complex interplay of water availability, energy efficiency, and environmental impact to provide a water supply solution for arid regions. Atoco’s technology promotes sustainable, low-energy, and eco-resilient development, thereby balancing the WEF Nexus and paving the way for a sustainable future.

Atoco’s roots in reticular chemistry

Atoco’s technology is built on the study and practice of reticular chemistry, pioneered by Atoco’s own Professor Omar Yaghi. Since 2012, Professor Yaghi has been the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. He has received over 55 prestigious global awards and medals throughout his celebrated career, including the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. Professor Yaghi designs and develops novel materials, like MOFs, with atomic precision that can separate and store a range of molecules. MOF-based atmospheric water harvesting is a beacon of hope for arid regions and the world, promising a future where water is accessible, energy is used efficiently, and food production does not harm the environment.

Learn more in our whitepaper