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‘Waterpreneurs’ bring resilience to communities across the world


Izzy Santa, Director, Strategic Communications, Consumer Technology Association

Water covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, but as the United Nations reports, 40 percent of the population still faces water scarcity.
 
Most of the countries on our International Innovation Scorecard are fortunate enough to have clean drinking water. But after natural disasters, even the most developed economies may struggle to restore basic services.
 
In the 2019 Scorecard, we added a new measure: Resilience. Based in part on the FM Global Resilience Index, the category includes obvious measures, such as a country’s exposure to natural hazards in the first place, as well as its political risk and economic productivity. It also includes the quality of a country’s infrastructure and local suppliers, which matter more than ever during a crisis.
 
Among the innovative startups building technologies that will make countries across the world more resilient by creating reliable sources of potable water:  Watergen, founded in Israel — one of 16 countries to be named a 2019 Innovation Champion — and the American company Zero Mass Water have both developed methods of collecting moisture from air. The companies have put their technology to work everywhere from southeastern Texas to northern Kenya.

Texas

Shortly after Hurricane Harvey pummeled Houston in 2017, it displaced 30,000 people from their homes and left hundreds of thousands without power and clean drinking water. The storm damaged chemical plants and unleashed contaminated floodwaters, leaving many residents little water for drinking, cooking or bathing.
 
When situations like that arise, the federal government is quick to adopt new technologies to help during recovery efforts. Watergen, a CES 2019 Innovation Award honoree, quickly began working with FEMA and the Red Cross to provide water to residents and first responders in Houston and other cities following hurricanes in the United States. The company’s system works like a dehumidifier, condensing water from air, filtering it and producing enough in total for a small home or agricultural operation.

Kenya

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in northern Kenya, Zero Mass Water put its water tech to use for the Samburu Girls Foundation, an organization that rescues young women facing early marriages or worse. The arid landscape and lack of local infrastructure in the region sometimes forced the 1,200 women in the care of the foundation to walk long distances to gather water. These treks put women at risk of coming back into contact with members of the communities from which they had escaped, but they had few alternatives.
 
Now, they do.
 
Zero Mass Water has donated its system to communities around the world, including to the Samburu Girls Foundation, eliminating the need for any of the women there to travel for water. Zero Mass’ machines draw air in and, using solar panels, heat it to create condensation before filtering the resulting moisture to create drinkable water.
 
Reliable sources of clean drinking water are a critical prerequisite for a better quality of life and innovation, with rippling effects on food security, health and poverty reduction. In communities around the world, Watergen and Zero Mass Water have turned their tech into another tool to build resilience, bringing clean water to the people most at risk.
 
Learn more about the 2019 International Innovation Scorecard.

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