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 metering 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
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
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.