Considering it makes up around 70% of our bodies, it’s no surprise that humans need plenty of clean water in order to function. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we need to use at least 20 litres per day — for drinking, as well as washing and cooking — in order to take care of our basic hygiene and food needs. And while the planet’s freshwater sources are the same as they have always been — around 2.5% of Earth’s water is considered fresh — the planet’s population has exploded in recent times, leading to a clean water crisis around the world.
While you may think that first-world countries would be safe from having to worry about access to freshwater, this couldn’t be further from the truth. An increasing number of developed countries lack access to clean water, the most notable example perhaps being the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. This came about after the government failed to add corrosion inhibitors to the water, having switched sources from the treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (which was sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. As a result, it was found that lead was leaching into the water supply, poisoning thousands of citizens. While thousands of families in Flint continue to rely on water donations in order to survive, officials maintain that the water is safe to drink.
Here, we’ll look at some of the most innovative technologies being developed in order to solve the water crisis, prevent incidents like these, and provide clean, fresh water to billions around the world.
Grundfos: providing solar-powered water pumps
As previously mentioned, not even 3% of the planet’s water sources are directly usable for humans and, considering that around 71% of the Earth’s surface is made up of water, this is a tiny percentage of freshwater that can be used by a constantly growing population. But in many places around the world, the problem isn’t a lack of water — it’s that the available sources are contaminated. It’s estimated that around 2 billion people use drinking water that has been contaminated with faeces, which can lead to a range of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, and cause around 485,000 deaths each year. However, groundwater is being increasingly used as it’s considered safer and easier to treat, if it needs to be treated at all, provided pollutants haven’t leached underground.
Many businesses are looking at extracting groundwater, which can be particularly useful in developing and rural areas. Grundfos, for example, has developed solar-powered water pump products with the aim of providing clean and sustainable water for customers around the world, whether that’s for a small village or an entire building. These are perfect for rural areas which perhaps cannot afford electricity or diesel to run traditional water pumps, but still need a clean water supply for agriculture.
The rapid growth of Grundfos on a global scale meant it had to quickly streamline its business processes in order to improve customer service by gathering accurate data and reviews. The company looked to SAP software to address this, which resulted in a threefold growth in purchases from the top 25% of customers. Headquartered in Denmark, a leader in agriculture, manufacturing, and energy sectors for SAP specialists, it meant that Grundfos could quickly hire the required experts to get the project moving as quickly as possible, and maximise sales.
LifeStraw: manufacturing portable water filters
Designed for people living in developing nations and for use in humanitarian crises, LifeStraws have since been adopted by hikers, survivalists, and general outdoor adventurists. The straw itself features a hollow fibre membrane, as well as activated carbon in some models. Water is drawn up via suction — like a traditional straw — then passes through hollow fibres that filter water particles in order to make it drinkable. The device claims to filter out any dirt, bacteria, and parasites, making it ideal for cleaning water from lakes and rivers — an especially helpful process for a water crisis.
While most entrepreneurs look at their businesses as having a corporate social responsibility, LifeStraw instead looks itself as being a “global public health company with a retail program”. Speaking to Forbes, managing director Alison Hill explained how the company leverages products targeted specifically at schoolchildren from the world’s developing areas. On the other hand, the retail products developed by LifeStraw include water bottles, pitchers, and universal filter attachments. And with every retail sale made, the business’ Give Back scheme allows them to continually provide fresh water to communities around the world.
Dar Si Hmad: capturing water from the atmosphere
Some regions, such as Peru, Bolivia, and Morocco, are chronically dry, making water collection more difficult. However, while it isn’t possible to use conventional methods to gather water from natural sources, experts have managed to harness water from the atmosphere. Foggy regions, like Sidi Ifni in Morocco, are ideal areas for utilising this technology, as made evident by the nonprofit organisation, Dar Si Hmad.
On the slopes of nearby Mount Boutmezguida, they installed fog collectors — large, vertically-installed nets — creating the world’s largest fog harvesting, or cloud fishing, project.
The nets harvest around 6,3000 litres of water every day — as the fog passes through the fine mesh, the mist gets caught, trickling down into the collection system, where it is filtered through. The water is then mixed with groundwater, and piped into five nearby villages, providing clean water for around 400 people.