two men standing next to each other in an office
Ed Russo and Yehuda Kaploun with a household-sized RussKap watermaker that’s installed at Russo’s wife’s Key West boutique. CONTRIBUTED

A Key West man and his business partner in Miami have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Yes, THAT Nobel Peace Prize, the one and only, awarded annually since 1901 and counting among its recipients Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, the International Red Cross and more.

Ed Russo of Key West and Yehuda Kaploun, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Miami, have been nominated for their work with atmospheric water technology that creates clean, healthy drinking water from the air.

You read that correctly — from the air.

Russo’s and Kaploun’s company, RussKap, manufactures machines that remove moisture from the air and convert it to clean drinking water “at the point of need,” Kaploun said, rather than having to transport it long distances through a pipeline.

Their machines are being used in 45 countries for disaster relief, humanitarian and military operations, often where drinking water is contaminated due to pollution, natural disasters or limited natural resources. The machines can produce 200 gallons of drinking water a day. 

“Clean water is the international language of peace,” Kaploun said. “Water is not political; it’s personal and it’s the most basic requirement for human life. People tend to politicize it and I have no respect for people who want to talk about a humanitarian water crisis if they’re not willing to fix it.”

The Nobel Peace Prize nomination is in both Kaploun’s and Russo’s names. The two were nominated for the prize by a foreign government official, who cannot be named as an official nominator, but who confirmed the nomination to the Keys Weekly. 

“We’re part of a global effort to bring drinking water to places without it,” said Russo, a longtime Key West resident, who said he’s been a “water geek” for decades.

a couple of men standing next to a green truck
The U.S. military deploys RussKap Water systems during a classified humanitarian mission in a foreign country. CONTRIBUTED

“This technology is key for so many places, and we didn’t invent it, but we significantly improved upon it,” Russo said. “Think about it: there are so many places in Africa where the only water ‘facility’ is on the heads of 3.5 million women who carry it for three hours a day in baskets back to their villages — and it’s brown water. Our water tastes amazing. We have a household-sized unit at our home and in my wife’s shop in downtown Key West.”

Though humbled by the Nobel nomination, Russo said his efforts are devoted to education, awareness and encouraging more people to enter the industry so more people can be helped. 

Kaploun lamented the national and global politics that often surround clean drinking water issues, including the U.S. disaster in Flint, Michigan, where people are often more interested in denying a problem, laying blame for it and avoiding responsibility than they are in solving it.

“We had a machine in an orphanage in Sierra Leone, Africa, and the girls initially refused to drink the water because they’d never seen clear water before,” Kaploun told the Keys Weekly last week. 

RussKap Water machines can be scaled from smaller household use with water makers about the size of a typical office water cooler and dispenser to military and humanitarian operations requiring several hundreds gallons a day. In those uses, the RussKap water systems are loaded onto trailers and are about the size of a central air-conditioning unit on the side of a house. 

About the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize – along with Nobel Prizes awarded in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economic sciences – was established and funded by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, inventor, engineer and businessman. He is known for inventing dynamite — and later remarking amusedly on his own use of nitroglycerin internally for heart problems. 

In his will, Nobel, who died in 1896, outlined three criteria for the Peace Prize: disarmament, peace congresses and brotherhood between nations.

Unlike the other Nobel awards, which are announced in Sweden each year, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each December in Oslo, Norway with each year’s recipient known as a Nobel laureate, selected by members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a division of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

Nominations were due Jan. 31, and the institute this year has registered a total of 285 candidates for this year’s peace prize, of which 196 are individuals and 89 are organizations.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.