Water has had a rough few decades. For years clean water has been degraded by factors like climate change, pollution, and rising urban populations. Clean, safe, and accessible water is as scarce as ever. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2025, two-thirds of the global population will face water shortages, and it’s difficult to understate the dire consequences those shortages are already having. The people of Flint, Michigan have been without clean water for four years and counting. Crippled from severe drought, Cape Town barely avoided a “day zero” when the city would be forced to control the water supply of a major metropolitan area, and experts fear places ranging from Mexico City to Jakarta could be next. India has threatened to use water as a weapon in its ongoing conflicts with Pakistan. Clean water gives life and financial stability to people each day. Water-related diseases also kill 6,000 children every day.
With stakes so high, the challenges can feel insurmountable. But some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs are doing the seemingly impossible -- they’re carving out a niche in the incredibly complex world of water and tackling those challenges head-on. A myriad of issues prevent them from making progress. Like many other highly regulated industries, bringing new products to market can be capital intense and the commercialization runway can take years. In the rapidly growing world of water startups, though, many are finding a way not just to monetize their idea but save lives in the process.
Agriculture is one of the biggest causes of the water crisis, accounting for as much as 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals in many regions of the world. Startups like Shenandoah Growers and Farmshelf are turning to innovative new methods of growing, such as vertical farming and low-tech greenhouses, to maintain production to feed a climbing world population without depleting our planet’s water supply. Israel-based startup PlantArcBio launched with the goal of impacting global food security, and recently announced a breakthrough in crops that can hold up against severe drought.
Other water solutions are trying to kill two birds with one stone by turning waste into water. Indra Water Systems, A Mumbai biotech startup, built a portable water treatment system that has turned more than 5 million liters of wastewater into clean water.
Technological advancements including speedier networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain technology are another driver for water startup success, as entrepreneurs are now better equipped to use data and smart tech to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. For instance, water startup Rachio developed products including a smart sprinkler and flow meter. The devices can help homeowners monitor their water usage to cut back on costs and stop leaks before they cause damage, all right from their smartphone. In India, the Swajal Water ATM uses the IoT to remotely monitor and repair its clean water stations, solar power to keep its carbon footprint low, and an RFID-based smart card system and mobile wallet technology to accept multiple forms of payment. Another startup, Ketos, uses a combination of proprietary hardware, smart software, and IoT connectivity to offer real-time monitoring of water. The company helps clients such as farmers or businesses use data about their water to detect any contaminants or leaks, understand customer behavior anomalies, and improve overall efficiency.
Companies like these are making huge strides in water solutions, but entrepreneurs have only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible in the business of water. If you have a clean water solution that can scale to 100 cities over the next 5 years, connecting with a local accelerator program like URBAN-X can help put your idea into action. There, experienced urbantech professionals can help you hone your idea, polish your product, and attract funding from a variety of sources, such as foundations with backers like Pepsi and Patagonia, or government grants from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. Together, you and URBAN-X can transform your idea into a practical solution with the potential to save lives, and the team will have your back as you release it into the world.
The global water crisis is complex, and won’t be solved overnight. The right policy and planning by government agencies and elected officials is essential. For founders looking to bring new solutions to life that will make clean water more accessible and safer, the team at URBAN-X stands ready to help. Learn more about the accelerator program that offers $150,000 to help get you started, plus 1,000 hours of world-class design and engineering resources for product development.
Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with URBAN-X, who sponsored this post. They help us keep the lights on. This post does not reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.