Cape town, home to Table Mountain, African penguins, the sun and the sea, is a popular tourist destination. But it could also become famous for being the first major city in the world to run out of the water.
The most recent projections suggest that the water that could be depleted already in the month of March. The crisis was caused by three years of low rainfall, coupled with the increased consumption of a growing population.
The local government is racing to face the situation, desalination plants to make potable the water of the sea, the groundwater collection projects, and water recycling programs.Graphene sieve makes drinking the water of the sea
In the meantime, Cape Town’s four million residents are asked to conserve water and not use more than 87 litres (19 litres) per day. Car washing and filling swimming pools has been banned. And the visit of the Indian cricket team has been told to limit their post-game showers to two minutes.
These water-related problems are not limited to Cape Town, of course.
Almost 850 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water, says the World Health Organization, and drought are on the increase.
So it seems incredible that even today, the waste of a large part of this fundamental natural resource. In developing and emerging countries, up to 80% of water lost through leaks, according to German environmental consultancy GIZ. Also in some areas of the UNITED states, up to 50% of the water goes away due to aging infrastructure.
A growing number of technology companies are focusing their work on water management – the application “smart” solutions to water challenges.More Technology of Business
The apps to help you lose weight for good this year?
This is the year ‘weaponised’ TO the bot battle?
“We should own our own survival and our own dream’
How did the music producer Gramatik raise $2m in 24 hours?
For example, the French company CityTaps is on a mission to simplify the access to water in urban homes, with its smart water meters connected to an internet-based management system.
The company is first targeting the poor houses in urban areas and its system, CTSuite, is currently being tested in Niger.
Users buy “credits” water through their cell phones, and smart meter dispenses only water, how much was paid. Users can receive alerts when their credit is low, and if you do not top up the account, the instrument automatically shuts off the flow.
The utility is able to track water usage remotely in real time via the internet. A sudden spike of flow of water, and a pressure variation, measured by the “internet of things” sensors, can thus help to identify leaks in the network.
Water companies are also using drones and satellites to help locate the leaks, and in some circumstances even the divining rods – despite scientific concerns, some companies say they do the job.
“The internet of things offers new avenues for technological innovation in the field of water, for the most part, providing real-time data that – hopefully – can be used to help utilities become more efficient and better performing,” says Gregoire Landel, chief executive of CityTaps.
Better water management also helps to save on electrical energy and chemicals needed to produce drinking water.
In the meantime, other companies are using the technology to harvest water from new sources.
The US-based WaterSeer, for example, is developing a device that can collect water from the air.
A fan sucks in the air in an underground collection chamber where the steam condenses, making use of the earth’s cooler temperatures. Solar or mains electricity powered radiators also help the condensation process.
The company says that water can be produced with “less than a 100 watts” of electrical energy – the power requirement of an old light bulb.
“Individuals and businesses to pave the way for innovative solutions, as they will be able to move around and adopt a series of them faster than large utilities that are sometimes bogged down in regulatory constraints and rigid decision-making cultures,” says Nancy Curtis, one of the founding members of the WaterSeer.
“However, the utilities offer the ability to make large-scale impacts on the replenishment of depleting water supplies.”Can ice structures to solve a Himalayan water crisis?
A number of water limited to the municipalities in which WE are exploring as WaterSeer devices may be used to improve the safety of the water, the company says. But the device is still in phase of experimentation in the field, these are the early days.
“A community of 500 would save 40 million gallons (150 liters; 33m gallons) of water each year, reducing stress on traditional surface and subsurface,” says Ms Curtis.
Technology can have its place in helping us to make a more efficient use of water, but it is unlikely to have an impact on those who do not have access to the water in the first place, says Alexandros Makarigakis of Unesco’s international hydrological programme (IHP).
“Smart water systems can be expected to have much impact with regard to the provision of access for outsiders. [They] are more effective in the urban context,” he says.
This is echoed by Vincent Casey, senior manager at the charity, WaterAid.
“The technology to connect people for a supply of water has been around since ancient Egypt. It is not a technical problem,” he says.
More important is how the water supplies are organized, he argues, is a problem, especially for governments, with the support of the private sector.
“The priority is the mobilisation of resources and pay sufficient attention to the management agreement to keep people connected,” says Mr. Casey.
This is not to say WaterAid shuns tech, fully. It has successfully used the mobile app mWater to monitor access to water and existing networks.
For those who do not have direct supplies, services such as Grundfos “water ATM” which allows access to the water, a dispenser using a pre-paid card, are also proving useful.
But there is a sense that much of this technology is simply tinkering at the edges. The fundamental issue is the potentially devastating effects of global warming on availability of water and how, together, we seek to address the problem.Follow the Technology and Business editor, Matthew Wall, on Twitter and Facebook
Click here for more Technology of Business