In the developed world, many of us are accustomed to a life of surplus and instant gratification. When we turn on the shower, we expect a steady stream of water to come out. When we turn on the faucet, we can wash our hands or fill a glass of water. We even pay for bottled water when tap water is readily available. But in developing nations, access to sanitary drinking water is another story. One of the largest problems plaguing the world today, on par with disease, genocide, and war is the global water crisis. Nearly 1 billion people in the developing world do not have access to safe drinking water. Even more, 2.4 billion, do not have access to proper sanitation, and 900 children die each year due to diseases from dirty drinking water. Overall, only 59% of the world’s population has access to clean drinking water.
While there a number of wonderful charities, such as WaterAid and The Water Project dedicated to ending the crisis through the funds they raise, the solution to ending the global water crisis may come down to data. As technology becomes more and more advanced, with big data and artificial intelligence becoming staples in the business world and coming to influence the way we run our lives, it is no surprise that tech startups would look to devise innovative solutions to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
As the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan demonstrates, water shortage is often tied to economics and politics as much as it is geography and climate. Therefore, some Silicon Valley tech companies are capitalizing on an opportunity to use data to analyze water quality and educate residents on the need for water conservation.
One of those companies is WaterSmart, an app that plans to reduce water use by an average of 5% and detect and alert residents to possible leaks in their water supply. The company, which has raised $7 million, is already valued at $21 million.
Another tech company making waves in combatting the water crisis is mWater, a not-for-profit tech startup that designed an app that lets users analyze their water quality and share the information on their global, open-source water monitoring database. Since it was developed in 2011, this app already has 8,000 users throughout 73 countries. Nonprofit organizations like WaterAid and the Ugandan Water Project are already using the data from the app to monitor water supplies and determine where to build wells.
Pluto Al, another tech startup, plans to work with water facilities to prevent waste, predict asset health, and minimize operating costs. The company resolves to integrate deep learning into the water industry through the use of sensors and meter to collect data, and a learning algorithm to analyze it.
It is important to bear in mind with these recent developments that data alone will not solve the global water crisis. Due to climate change and a growing population, a global shortage of clean, healthy drinking water will persist. However, data enables us to respond to the crisis and ensure that we take action to make smart choices surrounding drinking water.