Eight unbelievable solutions to future water shortages
From growing glaciers to making rain with lasers, what are the innovative technologies that could help us tackle the global water crisis?
It’s estimated that we use 9tn cubic metres of water every year. As the global population grows, it is becoming an increasingly precious resource, with millions forced to walk for more than a mile to collect their daily supply. We investigate the innovative technologies that will help tackle our water crisis in future.
1. Growing glaciers
More than half of the world’s fresh water is stored in glaciers, 15 times more than all of the world’s lakes, rivers and wetlands combined. As a result of climate change, almost every glacier studied by the World Glacier Monitoring Service has been found to be shrinking and meltwater is simply lost to the rivers and sea.
In her book Adventures in the Anthropocene, Gaia Vince tells the story of Indian geo-engineer Chewang Norphel, who lives in Ladakh on the edge of the Himalayas and who has sought to counter the problem by growing glaciers. Norphel diverts meltwater onto little plateaux where it freezes. He has created 10 artificial glaciers this way, which can be used for water in the dry summer months.
2. A bath without water
At the age of 17, Ludwick Marishane was sunbathing in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province. His friend said idly to him: “Man, why doesn’t somebody invent something that you can just put on your skin and you don’t have to bath.”Marishane did exactly that. He researched on his Nokia 6234 mobile phone, eventually formulating a lotion called DryBath. Marishane says that DryBath – a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids, and odour-eliminating chemical tawas –saves four litres of water ever session, a total of a million litres in total.
3. Ultra water efficient shower
We are all familiar with the moment. You get into the shower, turn the tap, then avoid the water until the temperature equalises. For Peter Cullin, from Adelaide, this is a problem. “Every minute of every day, in millions of homes around the world quality fresh drinking water is lost to the drain from inefficient showers.” To solve the dilemma, Cullin has created his “Cullector Ultra Efficient Shower”, a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system. If installed in 1,000 showers, Cullin says the device would save 200m litres of water a year. A similar system has been invented by Richard Ogodeton from Brighton.
4. The lifesaver bottle
“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”, wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This paradox struck Michael Pritchard while watching news reports of the Boxing Day tsunami a decade ago. Clean water was being brought in on trucks as the floodwater was too dirty. To solve this problem, he invented his “lifesaver” bottle, which uses a pump to force water through a 15-nanometre filter, cleansing it of all bacteria and viruses. Since its launch, the Lifesaver Bottle has been used by hikers, aid companies and the British army in Afghanistan.
5. Rainmaking with lasers
In the 1840s, James P Espy thought burning large fires in the American west would bring rain to the east. In the 1950s, there were attempts at cloud seeding. Now, the idea of rainmaking has returned to the scientific agenda. The idea this time is to fire lasers into the atmosphere. Properly-directed pulses of light have been shown to help ice sublime and vapour condense. The World Meteorological Organisation recently debated the future use of this new technology. One of the possibilities is to use lasers to induce rain at times of drought.
6. The fold up toilet
Along with the shower, the toilet is one of the home’s greatest source of water waste. As much as seven litres can vanish in a single flush and, wanting to improve matters, two students from the University of Huddersfield have inventedIota, the folding toilet. Iota’s design is markedly different to the traditional toilet and, as such, makes more efficient use of water. Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley, Iota’s inventors, claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.
7. Leak monitoring
Despite all the water wasted inside the home – dripping taps, inefficient toilets and showers – utility companies acknowledge that as much as a third is lost to leaks before it even arrives. Tackling this problem is Zonescan Alpha, a software that pinpoints leaks and relays data back to a control centre. It works by embedding sensors throughout a network and has been successfully trialled by Albstadtwerke, a German utility company, which says it helped reduce waste by 2m litres.
8. Solar powered water purification
Hot climates suffer the most from a lack of water, making the invention of 16-year-old American, Deepika Kurup, all the more intriguing. Hailed as one of the USA’s brightest young scientists, this year Kurup was awarded the US Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her ingenious solar-chemical purification process. This involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water. “This technology is green, safe, cost effective and easily deployable,” said Kurup.
Source: The Guardian