For most people reading this, water is just a turn of the tap away. As we go to press alarming headlines about water scarcity in Texas are in the news, underlining just how precious and precarious water is as a resource. Many of the articles in this ConWatch highlight daunting problems with the world water supply. But promising technologies are being developed to confront these problems and there are some positive innovations on the horizon that address water consumption, quality, and scarcity.
The ultimate goals are to reduce waste, conserve water for where it is needed, ensure water is managed fairly and equitably, and develop new methods to capture water in areas of greatest need.
Smart energy management systems and residential solar and battery technologies have allowed communities and consumers greater choices in energy conservation and low carbon energy generation. A similar transformation is now happening in residential and commercial water management with smart water technologies that reduce waste through leak detection, monitoring, and smart irrigation. Users can view their water use and discover ways to conserve water via smartphone apps. Residential leak detection technologies can reduce the risk of water leaks and damage by measuring real-time water pressure to predict pipe leaks. Residential applications using smart irrigation controllers can adjust to the local weather, seasons, and specific conditions for more efficient watering.
Smart tap water technologies are emerging for real-time water quality monitoring. Water filters are now available for removing unpleasant taste and odors, and eliminating contaminants—including microplastics, chlorine, lead, and pesticides. These smart filters connect to phone apps, notifying users when it’s time to change the cartridge for optimal water quality and taste. Other technologies are emerging to provide real-time lead testing at the tap, eliminating the need to collect and send tap water samples to a lab. These devices connect to smartphones to deliver test results and actionable information on in-home water treatment solutions.
Redwood trees have been a natural model for harvesting water from the air for generations. Now, digital technologies are being developed to capture moisture from the air and turn it into usable water. One innovation uses hydro panel technology, harnessing power from the sun to extract clean, pollutant-free drinking water from the air. The collected water is then mineralized for ideal composition and taste. This system can be used anywhere in the world and can be scaled for residential and municipal applications which could help tackle the growing problem of water scarcity around the world.
Another area of innovation is wastewater treatment. One solution uses a combination of plants and engineered structures housed in a compact botanical garden-like facility. Other solutions turn waste into energy processing wastewater and sludge into biogas, which can be used to produce electricity. This array of innovations in conservation, treatment, delivery, and capture will change the face of water management in the future, offering a broad menu of technology options for individuals, businesses, and municipalities to solve water scarcity and quality challenges. Perhaps there will come a time when no one waters their lawn in the rain.
World Economic Forum Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for Water Report.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Conservation Watch (ConWatch).