World Water Day, Imagining a water-secure future through technology and innovation

“Everyone has a role to play” is the tagline of this year’s #WorldWaterDay. While the world is struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing profound examples of leadership, courage, innovation, and unprecedented partnerships. This will include the actions and commitment of utility professionals keeping our water safe, reliable and plentiful. 

Driven by the vision of a water-secure future through technology and innovation, since 2018 11th Hour Racing has supported Imagine H2O’s Urban Water Challenge to address another global threat that transcends international borders — climate change and the water crisis. 

Here we take the opportunity to share some recent highlights of this collaborative initiative that empowers people to combat climate change through the lens of water — #climatechangeiswaterchange.

Astronauts say that from space, Earth looks like a blue marble with white swirls. Indeed, water covers about 71 percent of the earth’s surface, but only 3 percent of the earth’s water is fresh. Of the earth’s water that is fresh, only 0.5 percent is available for consumption, as the majority of the earth’s freshwater is frozen in the Nothern and Southern ice caps, floating above our heads as clouds, or locked in the soil.

The United Nations estimates that more than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or the sea without any pollution removal, thus contaminating the limited amount of freshwater that we do have access to. Developing countries that rely on natural water sources for their families and children are severely and disproportionately affected by these practices; and with the effects of climate change leading to a more variable water cycle, and urbanization putting a strain on natural resources, a water-secure future seems ever more distant.

This uphill battle has been recognized by entrepreneurs from around the world, aiming to develop innovative solutions to help us mitigate and adapt to the global water crisis. Since 2018, 11th Hour Racing has supported Imagine H2O’s Urban Water Challenge, a global innovation competition that invests in scalable water solutions for urban areas. In 2019, the Urban Water Challenge received entries from 226 startups across 38 countries. This annual global innovation competition provides access to awards funding, marketing, and visibility opportunities as well as introductions to investors and customers. The winning startups and finalists are deploying solutions in cities on three continents. Here are their stories:

Zilper Trenchless is installing and replacing water pipes using its trenchless technology in the greater Bogota, Colombia region. Initial tests in Colombia had an installation rate of 20 feet per hour, compared to conventional technologies that achieve three feet per day.

Indra Water is testing its ‘wastewater treatment system in a box,’ with five universities in Mumbai, allowing these academic institutions to treat and reuse their wastewater onsite.

StormSensor is a ‘google traffic map’ for sewers and stormwater, currently piloting in flood-prone New Jersey, allowing the state to better manage changing stormwater conditions, and creating smart urban watersheds.

Erin Rothman of StormSensor, installing sensors in New Jersey, U.S.A., to track stormwater conditions in real-time. Photo Credit: Erin Rothman | StormSensor

Erin Rothman of StormSensor, installing sensors in New Jersey, U.S.A., to track stormwater conditions in real-time. Photo Credit: Erin Rothman | StormSensor

Upepo is integrating low-cost measuring devices with Narrow-Band IoT to provide real-time revenue and water loss management data to utilities in Kenya — creating the mobile revolution for water management in East Africa.

Upepo deploying IoT solutions to improve water management, reduce leakage and encourage conservation. Credit: Upepo

Upepo deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to improve water management, reduce leakage and encourage conservation. Credit: Upepo

SmarterHomes is expanding a smart water metering solution to apartment buildings in water-stressed communities in Namibia, preventing leaks and improving overall water efficiency.

SmarterHomes smart metering dashboard. Credit: SmarterHomes

SmarterHomes Water Consumption dashboard to monitor and prevent leaks. Credit: SmarterHomes

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