That there is a looming water scarcity that is more of an economic scarcity (where there is a palpable shortage of investment in technology or the infrastructure required to harness water resources to meet future rising demand) rather than an actual physical scarcity – is a well-known but often deliberately ignored truth.
History has shown that entire nations and cultures have collapsed due to the inability to anticipate and tackle looming water scarcity that imploded into a full-blown survival threat. Well known examples such as the Indus valley civilization (where settlements were abandoned because of shifting river basins), the older Egyptian kingdom (collapsed due to water scarcity), the Akkadian Empire (uprooted due to the regions becoming arid), the Mayan empire (destroyed by a prolonged drought) have been discussed in academic fora but have never served as practical warning signs for strategists or decision makers.
However, in a united world there still are entire regions of continental proportions (such as sub-Saharan Africa) whose every sustenance is threatened by economic water scarcity and this should actually be seen as a unique business opportunity rather than a crisis that needs north south cooperation.
New ventures have majorly concentrated on solutions to address issues that have been pragmatic over projected ones. Accessibility to potable water doesn’t appear to be a pressing issue and much worse appears to be a social cause with very little return on investment. Some people even perceive it as an “imagined” crisis ignoring the fact that fresh water constitutes only 0.014% of the total water on our planet and it is shared by forests, animals, and livestock and freshwater reserves are also used to dump waste, navigate from one place to another and may even be in a solidified and unusable form such as glaciers.
Technologies such as desalination plants, water harvesting structures, and wastewater treatment units – though available have never really made a substantial impact upon remedying the entire problem as all these efforts amount for less than 3% of the unusable water being accessible for human consumption.
Against this backdrop, two startups have made an impressive beginning and show promise in turning their venture into a commercially profitable enterprise that converts crisis into opportunity the way it should be.
Sipping Fresh Air Watergen – an Israeli company that has launched the technology to convert water from atmospheric humidity and supply it in drinking form is literally taking the world by storm. From humble beginnings in 2009, as an entrepreneurial venture by Arye Kohavi, a former military commander and a small team of engineers, it was acquired by the billionaire investor Michael Mirilashvili in 2016 and has never looked back, and has since then grown to have a presence in 65 countries and a revenue of $39.4 million per year. Watergen incorporates its patented Atmospheric Water Generation (AWG) technology into large and small units from a 6000 litres per day generation capacity for hospitals in Raqqa, Syria and homes in Gaza, Palestine to small mobile 300 litres per day water generators that can be fitted into any home without any plumbing requirements and only an electric switch required to be connected to a single-phase electricity connection. This affordable technology literally enables you to sip water from fresh air.
Renewable Energy to Produce Renewable Water Uravu Labs – an Indian company founded in 2019 uses renewable sources of energy such as solar energy, heat from industrial waste and biomass waste to power its unique desorption and adsorption processes that harness water from the water vapour in the air. Uravu Labs started with a funding of $ 2million has quickly grown to a revenue of $ 7 million per year in less than three years with its operations in India alone. It has immense potential for expansion and growth as it has already entered into a tie up with AB InBev – the Belgian brewing giant that manufactures Budweiser beer among other internationally known beer brands. The success of their pilot with AB InBev could soon result in beer being produced from thin air!