The water challenge: how to provide water for the world’s population in a sustainable manner
My list

Author | Arantxa Herranz

Water is vital for life on Earth, including human life. And, yet, fully immersed in the 21st century, 785 million people lack even a basic drinking water service according to the World Health Organisation, which also estimates that at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces, (which can transmit diseases such diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio). To put this in perspective, contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year.

One of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is for everyone to have access to clean drinking water by 2030. This is a considerable challenge since, according to its own figures, by 2025, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions.

How can we ensure that drinking water reaches everyone and in a sustainable manner?

The price of water

Having access to drinking water is a more expensive resource than one might imagine. In Tanzania, for example, 10% of the population spend more than 5% of their entire expenditure on water suitable for human consumption.

However, although access to this resource does not entail such huge economic costs as in developed countries, the truth is that, ultimately, we are paying a high environmental cost. The water systems extract large quantities of water from the environment, they require energy, chemical products and infrastructures to treat and pump the water to our homes. Furthermore, they then need more energy and infrastructures to eliminate the waste, treat it and return part of the water to the environment with contaminants (albeit at low levels).

A solution may be for consumers to demand less water-intensive foods. It takes about 19 litres of water to produce a single nut, while it takes just over 11 litres to produce a tomato. Meat takes water consumption to a completely new stratosphere: 3,785 litres just to create a single fillet, according to figures by the World Economic Forum.

##

How to provide drinking water to everyone in a sustainable way?

The challenge, as we can see, is significant. The population continues to grow and, with it, the need for drinking water. Therefore, various organisations have been studying how to ensure that drinking water reaches everyone, but in the most sustainable manner possible.

The MIT, for example, has come up with a new way of extracting salt from water without filtering it or boiling it (__a method that uses too much energy to be sustainable). __ This is done by using a shock wave to separate the salt from the water that circulates through the system.

The system, implemented by the professor of engineering and mathematics, Martin Bazant and his team, uses electricity. The saltwater flows through a “frit”, a material made with small particles of glass that stays in place thanks to porous membranes on each side. The water does not just flow through these membranes as it would in a system with a physical filter, rather, it is “stripped” of the salt by electrical currents that separate it on one side.

Michael Pritchard, in turn, designed a bottle (Lifesaver), which can be used to convert dirty and infested water into a healthy and clean liquid. This is a feasible option for the United Kingdom’s army, which provides all its soldiers in Afghanistan with one of these bottles. Lifesaver has expanded, developing and introducing new sizes and products that go beyond just being a bottle. There are drums, for example, which can process 20,000 litres of water. This is a disposable product designed for use in disaster areas. It is now undergoing a second round of trials with Oxfam.

Other solutions focus on making the developed world more efficient, for example, the Zero Mass Water panels capture sunlight to produce electricity and heat. The electricity feeds components such as fans, which push the air through a material designed by the company to absorb the humidity. Then, when the material is exposed to sunlight, it captures water vapour. There is a 30-litre deposit inside each panel to hold the resulting water.

The panels are also connected to a pump that can transport the water from the roof, for example, to a tap in the kitchen, for reuse.

Therefore, there may not be a single solution, but all of these together, along with other proposals, may enable the dream of everyone having access to drinking water, to become a reality.

Images | Artem Beliaikin, Chaucharanje, abhishek, Skitterphoto

Related content
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
The countries predicted to lose the most with climate change
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
Young children are intuitive urban planners — we would all benefit from living in their ‘care-full’ cities
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
A city of empty houses: How work from home, job losses hit Bengaluru's residential rentals
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
Energy needed a digital revolution – and we are it
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
How the power of IoT makes smart cities a reality
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Heatwaves and urban heat islands: what are cities to do?
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Smart Forest City Cancun: a futuristic orchard in the middle of the Riviera Maya
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Do we consume more energy per capita, or less?
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Solar cities: an opportunity not to be missed
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Success story: Singapore’s transformation into a garden city
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Amsterdam launches a modular urban lighting system
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
Copenhagen’s green future is built on the rooftops
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
How does a city face the pandemic - Infographic
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Geothermal energy: a simple solution for making urban heat more sustainable
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Climathon, cities get together to tackle the climate emergency
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
Smart Cube: Cube4Services
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
BSI Cleaning: Innovative cleaning and disinfection solutions
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Wave by AGC: WAVEATTOCH, transparent glass antenna for outdoor network densification
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
Cloudics: Solutions for fueling stations that can be operated from the cloud-based web manager, by Astro Baltics
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
BuildWind: Pedestrian wind comfort and safety assessment
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Lumency: Smart Building and Environmental Monitoring
Green deal solutions Demo day
Green deal solutions Demo day
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
5G Smart Environmental Protection: Water at its best
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Unicard: Multimodal transport made easy
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Passenger: Enabling transport innovation
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Siemens eMobility: Energizing the electromobile world
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Clever Bins: Enhancing recycling management
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
Cyclomedia: Streets speak out smart
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
DEFLEXIO: Anticipating the good, the bad and the ugly
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
Success story: Smart litter bins in Seoul
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
The electricity challenge: Will we be able to generate all the energy we need?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Which are the 10 greenest cities in the world?
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban agriculture: how to go from being a hobby to feeding cities
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban forests: these cities are naturalising their environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
Urban metabolism, when cities are integrated into the natural environment
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
What is environmental racism and how can we prevent it in cities?
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Tokyo is facing the challenge of organising the most sustainable Olympic Games
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
Welcome to the post-diesel era. And now what?
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Chinese dilemma of waste-to-energy plants
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
The Business Case for Climate Neutral Cities – the Mission of our time
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Waste, a key pillar for sustainable Open Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Smart Piers Cities
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Cities deserve a stakeholder journey to support and ensure their decarbonization
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Enable connectivity for Smart and Sustainable Buildings
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
Portugal Smart Nation: the tale of how a nation can become global
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
CITYSYNERGY: A holistic view into the heart of the city
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
Octar Technologies: Safe disinfection for a better life
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
How companies and innovators can work together to build smart and sustainable cities
A Just Transition with Climate and Social Ambition
A Just Transition with Climate and Social Ambition
Recommended profiles for you
SC
Sebastian Clej
Asknights Limited
Founder
SN
Sinéad Nicholson
University of Kent
Early stage researcher
LF
Li Feng
H
I am in charge of European Area bussiness.
Viviana M. Donado
Viviana M. Donado
Independent
Architect Project
Dovile Sujetaite
Dovile Sujetaite
Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania
Advisor
CJ
CHema Jimenez
Med
CEO
AS
Aslin Santiago
Ecopark Group
Recycling Department Manager
KS
Kaisa Sibelius
Forum Virium Helsinki Oy
Coordinator and project manager of AI4Cities PCP project. https://ai4cities.eu
Alex D\'Elia
Alex D\'Elia
PROSUME
President
JM
Josemário Martins da Silva
INEMA
Técnico em Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos
AC
Angel Celorrio
Fira de Barcelona
Event Director
Benmesah Taleb
Benmesah Taleb
DEO ELECTRONIQUE
I am on the lead of purchasing and Sales operations within the company
TS
Tayab Sarwar
Sher e Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and technology
Bachelors Student
PM
PABLO M
Metro
Pablo
GB
Gabriel Bracamontes
Ebiosmart
Project director
ANTONIO ROS
ANTONIO ROS
Enertika
Industry Sector Advisor
Ramon Talamàs Jofresa
Ramon Talamàs Jofresa
CAMBRA DE COMERÇ, INDÚSTRIA I SERVEIS DE TERRASSA
President
Mónica  Peláez
Mónica Peláez
Alkaravan Design
Founder and Owner
Silvia Vázquez Dorado
Silvia Vázquez Dorado
Fira Barcelona
Project Manager
CS
Craig Semple
Excell Battery Company
Regional Manager - Western Canada

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$