From GreenBiz , Published 20 October 2014
There are no shortages of stories on the environmental, social and economic negative impacts of water scarcity and the drought in the U.S. in general and in California in particular. Stories about innovative solutions to address water scarcity and water quality, and the opportunity to ramp up investments in said solutions in the U.S. and globally? Not so much.
Singapore, Australia and Israel often are heralded as the global water-innovation hotspots. In these countries, water scarcity and security concerns have spurred innovative policies and investments in creating water-innovation hubs.
Here in North America, the government of Ontario, Canada has made similar strides with its 2010 Ontario’s Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act in an effort to advance resource efficiency and innovation at the municipal level while positioning the province as a global leader in water technology and innovation.
In the U.S., several regional economic development efforts are investing in water clusters. However, the current scale and pace of North American water innovation doesn’t begin to match the scope of the actual market opportunity or underlying resource challenge.
The American water industry employs about 700,000 workers, including 30 utilities that support some 289,000 jobs, for about $52 billion in total annual spending. The water sector is also faced with an estimated $1 trillion in needed infrastructure investment, according to the Brookings Institution . However, water receives relatively little attention from investors and entrepreneurs who typically seek to introduce disruptive business models and technologies to solve market challenges.
Looking at the numbers, it is reasonable to conclude that the drought has had no impact whatsoever on investments in the water and wastewater sector. According to the Cleantech Group , investments from corporate and venture equity in water and wastewater technology totaled $140 million for 33 venture deals for the first half of 2014. This is compared to $317 million for 58 deals in the first half of 2012.
A recent report by McGill University and Utrecht University, summarized in Nature Geoscience , highlighted six strategies to address the water shortfall by 2050. These are not new, but focusing on these key areas is the place to start for any entrepreneurs residing in multinational corporations, startups, the public sectors and NGOs. They include agricultural productivity, irrigation efficiency, improvements in domestic and industrial water-use intensity, increasing water storage in reservoirs and desalination of seawater.
Let’s buckle down on water-tech innovation to meet the energy, water and food needs for our current and projected global population.
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