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When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water -Benjamin Franklin
The freshwater availability on Earth has remained constant over time but as humans have proved to be inefficient water users, the world is grappling with a water crisis where humans are competing for clean water.
While certain places on the planet use freshwater in their toilet flushes, there are regions where women and children walk ~6km every day to fetch water.
Our challenge is to effectively conserve, manage, and distribute the water we have.
🚰 Bringing running water in every urban home
Not everyone has this luxury…Nearly 2.2 billion people live without running water access at their homes (that’s 1 in 3 people). In Sub-Saharan Africa, just under 25% of urban households have access to piped water. As an alternative, people use public water points and water delivery services but they are expensive, unreliable and unhygienic. Also, water utility companies in these countries are hesitant to expand their services to low-income houses due to high rates of non-payment and the investment in resources to collect unpaid amounts.
Pay as you go(PAYG)…PAYG refers to prepaying for a service flexibly. Based on it, French startup CityTaps has developed a water utility management solution. Customers use mobile money to recharge their prepaid water meters. Once the account is charged, water becomes automatically available until the money runs out. As customers only pay for what they use, it gives them more control over their budget while getting access to clean water. Also, as they don’t have to travel to fetch water, it saves time and is a safer alternative for women and children.
Beneficial for water utility companies…As the water service is paid for in advance, utility companies don’t run the risk of non-payments, improving their cash flow. This enables them to expand their water networks and provide services to more households. CityTaps’ management solution also helps utility companies identify leaks, measure night flows, meter tampering and theft. Even the customers have a real-time view of their consumption and receive SMS alerts in case of leaks.
💧Every drop counts
80% of household water goes to waste…Through our sinks, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, 80% or more of household water leaves into the sewerage system. The US has the highest per capita withdrawal of water, followed by Greece, Canada and Turkey. While an average American uses 7500 litres of water/day, an average household in Africa uses just 19 litres/day. The World Bank has predicted that 2/3rd of the global population will run short of fresh drinking water by 2025. By 2030, it is estimated that we will face a 40% water gap between demand and availability.
Saving the water by atomizing it… In an ordinary faucet, 10-12 litres of water flows out per minute. Only a small portion of it touches our hands or dishes(while washing them) and the rest is wasted. Swedish startup Altered: is atomizing(breaking into very fine particles or droplets) water to save it. Through a nozzle that can be fitted into existing faucets in just 30 seconds, water breaks down into a billion tiny drops and comes out at a high speed (which gives it greater pressure) while saving 98% of the water. There’s even an option to increase the flow in case you want to fill a glass of water or a vessel.
Creating products that people would use… As humans, we are wired to take the path of least resistance. 'Our brain tricks us into believing the low-hanging fruit really is the ripest.' If Altered: would have created a similar product but would have asked people to replace their existing faucets, it would have failed. But as their existing solution can be fitted into the existing faucets, it has garnered interest from companies like Ikea and Coca Cola and is being used by numerous offices and hotels across the world.
📝 Get a grip on your water usage(and wastage)
We all know it… If you google ‘home water usage’, all the graphs and charts would tell you that your toilets and showers use the highest amount of water. But as a consumer, it’s hard to relate to data points like ‘on an average, 25% water in households is used by showers and 22% is used by toilets’. Instead, if someone tells you that you used 65 litres of water in the shower today while you should have ideally used 37 litres, you would think of ways to reduce your consumption.
If you can measure it, you can improve it… Austin, Texas-based startup Pani(Hindi for water) builds smart water monitors that can be attached to a faucet, shower, or toilet. This easy to install monitor(no plumber needed) records water usage, checks water leakages and keeps the consumer informed through the Pani mobile app. The water that is saved as a result of Pani water systems is donated by the company to water projects in developing nations where households don’t have access to clean water.
It’s called ‘smart’ for a reason… After using it for 7-10 days, the Pani smart water monitor understands the usage and provides tips and recommendations for saving water. As a consumer, you can then set goals to decrease your water usage(and your carbon footprint). To incentivize customers to do that, Pani donates money to water projects working across the globe.
By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas plagued by water scarcity, with two-thirds of the world's population living in water-stressed regions as a result of use, growth, and climate change. - UN
In order to act, we need to be aware. Want to test your awareness about the water crisis? Answer these 5 quick questions.
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