Unlike salt water, which is present in abundance, less than 1% of the planet’s available water reserves is freshwater. Paired with the rising demand for clean water and the reducing supply, this information is enough to give pause for thought. What can be done to avoid increasing water scarcity around the globe?
Luckily, innovators are rising to the need for water-related technology that can help solve water resource issues. This blog will look at how advancing technology is helping to clean water more efficiently.
Quick facts about water and water scarcity
Water is critical to supporting healthy ecosystems and bolstering public health. The well-being of people around the world depends on reliable, consistent, and safe access to clean water. As the global population continues to grow, the number of people without reliable access to freshwater will increase. Recent estimates about population growth in the coming years reveal that nearly 10 billion people will exist by 2050. Unless something changes quickly, they will be sharing less than 1% of the world’s water supplies.
Water scarcity refers to the shortage of safe and reliable access to clean drinking water. This issue already impacts every continent but is especially prevalent in arid regions with little natural rainfall. As growing urban areas continue to increase the demand for nearby freshwater reserves, this scarcity is poised to grow in the future. This is not yet considered a global water shortage, but 1.4 billion people already live in areas with severe water scarcity and experience the adverse effects of living without enough water daily. Even more telling, around four billion people – almost two-thirds of the population – experience severe water scarcity at least one month out of the year.
Against this backdrop, we will discuss how emerging technology and innovations might help solve some of these issues in the future. Let’s look at specific examples of water-related technology designed to streamline water use and access.
- Smart water metering
One emerging technology focuses on measuring water use and detecting potential links to help reduce water consumption without placing undo strain on the households in question. The “WaterOn” device – an automated leakage prevention system and smart metering solution – has led to a 35% decrease in water consumption among 40,000 households in India, for example, and is mainly used in apartment buildings.
- Smart infrastructure planning
While the need for expanding safe water delivery services is critical in many areas worldwide, it can be challenging to determine where money needs to be spent first when improving infrastructure. Wonderkid is a company that has created a mobile management platform allowing utility companies to improve their billing services and customer care while pulling data to help analyze where money is best spent in infrastructure development.
Wonderkid has already proven successful, leading an estimated 500,000 people to gain easy and safe access to clean water in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Optimize crop yields
Agriculture is critical to the well-being of people around the world, but a shifting climate stands to impact how farmers can grow their crops. A combination of remote sensors and machine learning can help inform farmers about local climates and future forecasts, allowing them to plan their crop planting to optimize yields. As farmers improve control of water consumption and minimize the impact of droughts, everyone benefits on both local and global levels.
- Rainwater harvesting
Another area where technology is improving water consumption and conservation is rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting systems make it possible not only to capture more rainwater for future use but also to manage collected rainwater to optimize its use.
- Wastewater collection
Wastewater collection is a process that conserves water that would otherwise be discarded. This allows the water to be used for other applications. Emory University, for example, has reduced its water consumption by almost 40% by claiming and using as much as 146 million gallons of wastewater from the campus every year.
Clean water initiatives
Technology can help reduce water consumption and improve access to clean water, but that doesn’t mean you must invest in new technology to help water scarcity. Initiatives such as the Cadiz Water Project can help local communities access freshwater. The Cadiz Water Project is intended to expand the reach of clean water to people in southern California.
What do you think about the role of technology in improving access to clean water and streamlining its consumption and collection? While some of the technology above is still in its beginning stages, the promise of modern solutions to increasingly common water scarcity concerns is worthy of note all on its own.