Innovations to Secure Water Supplies

In a previous blogpost, we discussed the water situation in India, which is one of the four challenge tracks for the Design Public Conclave to be held in November this year. Under the broad theme of ‘Equitable Water’ we decided to narrow our focus on the supply of clean and safe drinking water as with India’s growing population, clean water supply will soon become inadequate. Large parts of the country already suffer acute shortages in clean drinking water as well as water for domestic use, not to mention water for industrial and agricultural use. This is due, in large part, to the mismanagement of water and the lack of proper recycling technologies. While there are efforts being made to better manage our water resources, these are widely distributed and often in misalignment with each other. At the fourth edition of Design Public, we will therefore focus on enabling better coordination between these, especially to bring clean drinking and domestic water to the urban and rural poor who suffer most from their lack. This involves tackling the problem through more evolved recycling technologies, better water delivery processes, as well as focused legislation and policy changes.

In the process of researching the water sector in India, I came across an interesting article “Global Cleantech 100: a strong showing for innovative water technologies” that talks about various innovative initiatives being taken up by many entrepreneurs to solve the big challenge of securing water supplies. It deals with initiatives focusing on distribution of water, treatment of contaminated water, desalination of water, and bringing clean water to the developing world. Here are some of the initiatives that I found really interesting:

In order to prevent the loss in distribution due to leaks and other infrastructure problems, an Israeli-based company TaKaDu, makes a web-based platform that continuously monitors sensor data coming from water distribution networks. Running this data through a set of algorithms and statistical tests, it can detect leaks, bursts, faults or other network problems, and send alerts to utility workers.

WaterHealth’s Initiative

Emefcy, another Israeli company, calculates that wastewater treatment uses 2% of global power and produces 57m tons of CO2 each year. The company has developed a microbial fuel cell that produces electricity from the breakdown of organic material during wastewater treatment, which can offset the large energy demands of the process.
Californian company, APTwater, says its environmentally-friendly method for destroying contaminants is based on clean chemical reactions and naturally occurring biological systems. It cleans groundwater and wastewater for municipalities and large industrial clients while producing little or no waste byproducts.
Epuramat, based in Luxembourg, also works with municipal and industrial clients providing compact wastewater treatment facilities and oil-water separation systems. Its technology is chemical free, and instead relies on gravity and fluid dynamics to separate solids from liquids.

Some 3.4 million people die each year from waterborne diseases, according to the World Health Organisation, making it the leading cause of death especially among children in developing regions. Working to relieve this suffering, WaterHealth International currently provides low cost water purification facilities to water stressed communities across Bangladesh, Ghana, India and the Philippines. The company, which is headquartered in the US, says it is now creating clean drinking water for 5 million people in these areas. Their solution uses mostly off the shelf technologies like UV light disinfection and multi-stage filtration to remove silt, bad taste and odours. But their business model is unique, as the company shares the cost of the facility with the community and works closely with them to install, operate and maintain it for at least 10 years.

Such initiatives can make a substantial impact under the dire situation of acute water shortages that threatens life, health, stability and economic development in many regions of the world.

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