By Ariel Schwartz
It's impossible to overstate the value of water. Without it, we'd be dead. And yet, 69% of Americans polled in a recent survey from Xylem say they take clean water for granted. Only 29% believe water infrastructure issues will seriously affect them. But now that water shortages are increasing in frequency and the importance of having clean water is coming to the forefront, there are a slew of companies working on water innovations. Every year, water nonprofit Imagine H2O holds a business plan competition for companies working to solve the water crisis. This year's crop of 10 finalists are all working on consumer-facing products. Below, we look at our favorites.
This nanotechnology and biomimicry company does something that sounds impossible on the surface: collecting water from air. NBD doesn't go into too much detail on how its Namib Beetle-inspired technology works, but the company's website explains that it "makes use of a nano-scale surface to enhance water condensation." The Namib Beetle works by grabbing water from fog with the help of the wind, which pushes moisture into its back until droplets emerge.
NBD isn't alone in its pursuit of extracting water from air. Edward Linacre won last year's James Dyson Award for the AirDrop, a low-tech turbine-based device that captures water in arid conditions, while other companies sell more expensive, high-tech versions of the technology.
Looking for treated water in Haiti? It could cost you 12 cents a gallon--too much for many residents of the country to afford. DloHaiti, a startup founded by Silicon Valley and Haitian entrepreneurs, has come up with a business model that could ease costs: deploying water kiosks that dispense and deliver five-gallon jugs of water. Kiosks already exist in the country, but DloHaiti says on its website that it plans to "improve this business model, lowering costs and delivering superior products and services to high-demand but under-served communities." Next up: a 40-kiosk pilot in early 2013. After that will come a 300-kiosk network reaching up to 8% of the Haitian population that isn't served by public trucking or water infrastructure.
This Scottish company has come up with a water boiler, dubbed the Jompy, that allows people to boil water and cook their food at the same time, reducing fuel use and the need to use open fires. The device also pasteurizes water, cutting down on the risk of waterborne disease.
The key to the Jompy--made out of coiled metal tubing--is its flat disk shape, which lets users place pans on top of it while it boils water. It also creates a heat conductive surface--one so effective that users need 60% of the gas they'd normally use to boil water in a saucepan. The device has been tested in a Ugandan community, where it helped generate better indoor air conditions and fewer diseases.
These three companies--along with the rest of the finalists--will now advance to a second round of the Imagine H20 competition, competing for more than $200,000 in services and cash. The results will be announced on International World Water Day in March.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.