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Investing in a Waterless World

Written By Alexandra Perry

Posted March 24, 2017

Wednesday was World Water Day.

I bet you didn’t know it. But don’t feel bad, I didn’t either — which is terrible because I pride myself on being the world’s worst kind of environmentalist: a preachy one.

But I don’t want to lecture you outside of one small point…

We just don’t really think about water.

And that is crazy because water scarcity is one of the biggest global crises we face.

We Are in Deep Water… or Not

By 2030, four out of every 10 people will not have access to clean water.

The population boom is a factor, but especially in the developed world, the main culprit of water scarcity is failing water infrastructure.

Two years ago water infrastructure failed for the residents of Flint, Michigan. In a cost-saving move, Michigan decided that all of Flint’s water should come from the Flint River. But — shocker — toxic lead had been seeping into the river for years. It was completely undrinkable. And Flint, a town already struggling against persistent poverty, was left with very few options. It is still locked in the situation.

And Flint’s problem could be brewing in hundreds of American towns. Water infrastructure is a time bomb. 

Most of the world will experience water shortages by 2040. Certain countries are already teetering on the edge of water desolation. A majority of the Middle East is rated a “5” — the highest risk rating a country can carry.

And then there is America — the land of plenty — whose current water infrastructure has us weighing in at a heavy “4.”

So, if you aren’t thinking about water, you should probably start. Luckily, the issue is not being ignored by the tech industry. They are ready to make it rain.

Water Startups to the Rescue

I am a bit of a fan girl of the startup business model. And what’s not to love? Startups are agile, highly motivated, and can churn out hyper-focused products faster than mega companies. This makes them great at tackling an issue that will need multiple solutions.

Currently, there are dozens of startups focused on the water issue. Many of them want to prevent water disasters in small communities, like Flint. Others want to improve the entire system.

One company helping communities is WaterO. WaterO has built a filter that uses osmosis instead of carbon filters. This filter is effective at removing heavy metals, including lead, mercury, and chlorine. This would help rural communities take water treatment into their own hands — and out of the hands of an ineffective government.

Other technology companies are taking a different approach — they are going with software.

WaterSmart helps monitor our current water supply. This, in turn, helps the water industry monitor our current water usage. WaterSmart can predict demand, and this gives utility companies the opportunity to reward customers who don’t waste water.

WaterSmart’s value recently rose by $7 million. It has a $21 million pre-money valuation.

Then there is my personal favorite, Pluto AI.

What this company has done is nothing short of phenomenal. It uses data and machine learning to predict when (and where) our current water infrastructure will fail.

And, believe it or not, Pluto AI is a socially conscious company working to help the big players. It wants to reduce the costs of production for large utilities and, in doing so, make water more accessible to low-income families. Time and time again, these families are the ones hit hardest by water pollution.

If you want to get in on water before the crowd, the time to invest is coming. There is no doubt we are heading toward dry days. But most people don’t recognize that yet.

The sector is going to grow dynamically once people recognize the need for clean water. Flint might have been the first wake-up call. More are coming. 

Our population is growing. Our clean water supply is shrinking. And, without a doubt, clean water will be one of the biggest investments of the next 10 years. Stay tuned for more developments in the water sector.