Conflicts, deleterious impacts on human development, and disparate economic growth has increased as oil stocks have decreased. The water crisis that is developing across the globe poses a greater risk to societies as water is a daily need for life. “Around 2 billion people around the world do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, and approximately 3.6 billion people – 46% of the world’s population – lack adequate sanitation services.” Compounding the historic clean water issue is the relatively recent phenomenon of water scarcity. The global reduction of fresh water stocks has created a water crisis.
According to the European Environmental Agency “the water crisis, particularly in Southern Europe is compounded by record breaking summer heat waves and prolonged droughts “climate change is expected to further increase the frequency, intensity and impacts of drought events, makes it unlikely that water scarcity will reduce by 2030. Additional effort is needed to ensure sustainable water.”
Asia is experiencing an acute water crisis. The crisis is rooted in climate driven metrics and population growth that places intense pressure on water management. According to the Asian Development Bank, “Resilient water management is central to achieving climate adaptation, managing and better preparing for natural and public health threats, and addressing water scarcity issues amid rapid population and economic growth in the region.”
The Water Crisis is also a troubling condition across the African Continent. One out of three Africans are confronted with expanding arid conditions and diminishing water supplies. The fact that one of the earth’s important lungs is in the Congo basin should accelerate the concern of water scarcity. The Congo’s rainforest reduces global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. The obvious need for healthy water stocks to maintain the globe’s lungs, the Amazon and the Congo Basin, dictates the full attention of everyone. An examination of the results of COP26 and COP27 establish that there are no real legal constraints that countries must enact to reduce carbon emissions. The legal binding nature of climate treaties such as the Paris Agreement is undermined by the fact that there are no enforcement provisions. The vulnerability of the climate treaty was underscored when the former President of the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement. The withdrawal occurred after the US had submitted a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in which it committed to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The problem with the premier climate treaty was that the Agreement did not provide for enforcement protocols.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, this “half a loaf” solution does not address the fact that water scarcity is a global crisis and waiting for a damage assessment is beyond anemic. According to the World Meteorological Organization, South America’s drought and rising summer heat conditions are presenting deleterious conditions across the continent. The World Weather Attribution Initiative is a consortium of scientist associated with Imperial College of London and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, conducted a study on the weather conditions that directly affect the availability of fresh water in the continent, “since 2019 large parts of Argentina and neighboring countries have been reeling under drought conditions with the last four months of 2022 receiving only 44% of the average precipitation: the lowest rainfall in 35 years.”
Conditions are not much better in North America. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, documented that the Western US States vacillates between severe droughts to an occasional wet winter that stalls off the effects of a prolonged drought.
The glacial pace of government and intergovernmental organizations in addressing grave global conditions can be mind-numbing and young advocates have expressed outrage over crushed expectations from COP27. Although the national and international government organizations have clearly dropped the ball on the urgency of the climate issues, Tech solutions offer more hope to the younger generations than lumbering organizations with outdated solutions. As politicians squabble, entrepreneurs are working on tech solutions that can create water.
There are a number of water-making technologies that are being developed to help fight the water crisis. Some of these technologies include the following.
Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater to produce fresh water. This is a promising technology for areas that are located near the ocean and do not have access to fresh drinking water or are in areas of the world that have constrictions on drinking water. The tech is mature and provides water engineers with a framework to research. There are two main issues with this tech. It is expensive and inefficient. It produces a brine by-product which is pumped back in the ocean. The concentrated brine is harmful to sea life as it reduces oxygenation in the ocean. R&D in varied universities from University of Texas, Penn State and MIT are researching reverse osmosis with efficient membranes that lower the cost of production of fresh water. MIT is researching the derivative tech that will convert the brine into chemicals that are sodium based. The ChemTech research will obviate the waste and prevent ocean pollution.
Water harvesting Tech is the collection of rainwater or other forms of precipitation. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as building dams, cisterns, and rainwater catchment systems. Every square foot of roof space collects 0.6 gallons of water in a 1 inch rainfall.
As rainfalls vacillate in unpredictable intervals, there is a market need to build out the efficacy of harvesting to meet changing market conditions. The Tech needs to integrate rain harvesting collection ponds and basins with an aggregation tech to efficiently designate residential and commercial use. There are both commercial and Not For Profits that are dedicated to utilizing tech solutions to harvest water.
Not surprisingly Los Angeles has a developing ecosystem for harvesting tech development, both in the For-Profit sector and the Not-For-Profit sector. Greywater Harvesting Systems is a For Profit company that has been developing innovation in Southern California since its Startup days in 2009. Its innovation expands beyond rainwater harvesting. It also excels at recovering greywater. This is harvested domestic wastewater that has been used for washing dishes and or cloths or bathing, etc. This harvest is used for non- potable water use, such as fountains, landscaped trees and street cleaning. It also can be treated for cost-effective drip irrigation for plants and food chain growth. Drip irrigation is a mature AgriTech that has been built out with efficiency development. It utilizes a dedicated water base to deliver a calculated water load to the roots of commercial crops.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, “Drip-irrigation study sees 37 percent reduction in water use and five percent increase in yield.” The introduction of greywater into the water load saves fresh water by 100%. This innovative company also creates additional water stocks in the supply chain through rain harvesting production.
The Not-For-Profit Los Angeles Waterkeeper, provides a variety of programs, products/service lines which create significant fresh water stock development in Los Angeles. As a Not-For-Profit it provides advocacy and support for climate-litigation to mitigate the water-crisis. However, its work in creating fresh water supplies through rainwater harvesting is particularly helpful in building out new fresh water supplies in the fight to reverse the water crisis.
The fact that rain water harvesting and greywater harvesting utilize mature tech, presents scalability through tech development. Several companies have home based capture and filtering units. The next generation of these units should include embedded solar heating components for purification and aggregation meters that ties into a demand response program. The commercialization of the demand response program will provide a distributed generation of new water infrastructures at a fraction of the cost of outdated water delivery systems. By building out newer models that can collect and purify harvested rainwater and greywater from individual homes and commercial buildings for storage will allow the embedded smart meter to participate in a developed Demand Response Program which will help preserve community and urban based reservoirs and protect underground water. Demand Response Programs have been successfully used in urban areas when the electricity grid is incapable of meeting surge usage. The end users of electricity execute contracts with Demand Response Providers. In exchange for curtailing energy usage for a specified period of time, the consumer is paid for the amount of electricity that is curtailed. The more successful Demand Response Providers aggregate such large amounts of electricity that grid operators are able to avoid the financial and environmental cost of building new power plants. The curtailment payments to the consumers provides the incentive to purchase the smart meters and participate in the aggregation funds.
The development and buildout of harvesting units that can be manufactured to both the residential and commercial building sector with the smart meter will allow Demand Response Providers to expand services into the water supply sector. Demand Response can be called at all times that the fresh water supply reaches identified certain metrics that warrant relief through Demand Response.
There is R&D needed to effectively expand Demand Response to the fresh water sector and the universities are on the job.
It is obvious increasing fresh water supplies through harvesting provides additional water supplies to alleviate the stress on existing fresh water stock. The goal in beating the crisis is increasing water stock supplies. The harvesting methods require low-intensity water purification.
However, there is a more intense means of increasing water supplies through new tech. Water purification of waste water is seriously being considered to replace water stocks that are being reduced due to the water crisis. Billions of gallons of wastewater is available as potential sources of potable water.
Water purification is the process of removing contaminants from water to make it safe to drink. Traditionally this has been performed through a variety of methods, such as filtration, distillation, and chlorination. The process of treating wastewater and reusing it for other purposes was restricted to irrigation or industrial use.
There are a number of reasons why water-treatment technologies are not being used on a widespread basis. The expense, negative impact on the environment, limited use of the treated water and limited interest in commercialization.
However a combination of nanotech development, long-term droughts, and the need to restock potable water stocks have created changing market conditions. This acute market need is causing water authorities to reexamine the use of billions of gallons of wastewater that is produced annually. One of the emerging tech that is drawing R&D is Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs). Water Treatment of wastewater relies on technology that deploys membranes to remove toxins from the waste water. Membrane technology is a process that uses a semi-permeable membrane to separate components from a liquid or gas mixture. Membranes are thin, porous materials that allow certain molecules to pass through while blocking others. The type of membrane and the operating conditions determine which molecules are allowed to pass through the barriers. There are varied membranes that separate pathogens allowing wastewater to be treated. The tech is promising because it allows for the integration of captured carbon in the development of nanotech. The CNTs promise of expanding the recycled use of waste water is drawing solid R&D. Texas A&M University has produced a promising study of CNT tech, Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) for Water and Wastewater Treatment: Preparation to Application.
The Water crisis is generating R&D into other technologies. Tech that creates water from devices that convert hydrogen and oxygen utilizing a catalyst is an exciting development that can provide new fresh drinking water resources, when aggregated with the previously discussed Tech solutions. The sense that the global water crisis can be abated and eventually obviated becomes identifiable.
One set of new Tech that is attracting attention is the Sun to Water technologies. Basic secondary school science provides the knowledge that life sustaining water is one atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen. There is significant R&D, beta to prototype products, and market ready products that are a promising new way to produce clean water.
The market ready technology is rooted in an extraction tech that creates water from atmospheric humidity in a concentrated collection device. There are several products on the market that are creating limited fresh water stocks. The tech is expensive and the fresh water stocks are not commercially significant but further R&D can drive the costs of the tech down while driving scalability upwards.
There are other Sun to Water Tech R&D that utilizes solar energy to convert water vapor into fresh water stock. Sun to Water technologies have the potential to provide a sustainable and scalable source of clean water for people in landlocked states and countries. There is feasibility studies that are using varied catalyst to effectuate the conversion of the hydrogen and oxygen into fresh water. The University of Cardiff has utilized cost effective catalyst to create drinking water through purification. One of the main functionalities of the catalyst is to control the force of the energy release during the synthesis process.
The most promising Research in simulation through Quantum Computing (QC). The quest to develop QC simulation to improve and or replace combustion and catalyst is ready for R&D. QC leverages quantum mechanics, fundamental postulation in physics that is focused on the scales of atoms and subatomic particles, Protons, Neutrons, etc. Quantum Mechanics is the foundation of all quantum physics, quantum chemistry, and quantum field mechanics (QFT). One of the generating factors for both R&D is the evolving nature of QFT. In leveraging quantum mechanics QC resolves difficult issue through calculations that can be used to derive algorithms which can be utilized to create simulated combustion and catalyst. The simulation would remove the deleterious derivatives of combustion and the environmental and cost factors of the catalyst.
There are several R&D projects in government agencies intergovernmental organizations, universities and private enterprise that are examining the intersection between Quantum Chemistry and QC for the simulation of the functionality of chemical reactions.
The goal is to develop the Concept Generation for a new energy/water device that will utilize solar technology as the activation energy in a chamber which contains hydrogen and oxygen. The QC will act as the catalyst and control and direct the energy release for storage and process the created fresh water.
A maturation of the Tech that is in R&D and the ability to meld these Tech solutions to QC Tech will allow Sun to Water production to scale up to the creation of viable fresh water stocks. These new water stocks that can add to the new stocks of fresh water that the varied tech solutions that MGSN has featured. Entrepreneurial solutions to a grave problem.