What About Water?: The Year In Review
Photo by ComputerHotline via Flickr Creative Commons
This year has been quite a doozy for water. From spreading smart metering to our water works, to shipping water from Alaska all the way to India, to clever and crazy ideas to help us conserve, down to our annual month-long Blue August feature, we've been through the wringer, so to speak. Check out the top news of 2010 in the world of water.
Photo by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr Creative Commons
Smart Water Meters Take Hold
From New York City to the coastlines of California, smart meters for water management are becoming more popular. Smart water meters will play a big role in conservation in the years to come -- in fact, smart water technology is set to be a $16.3 billion market in just a few years.
Water Scarcity Gets Real
News around the world of water scarcity became frighteningly common this year. We took a closer look at countries that are growing in population while water supplies are shrinking. And it's not just China, India and African countries -- even the US is not immune to water shortages. Check out an interactive map of where the water is.
Shipping Water Around the World
With water drying up in some areas but still abundant in others, the idea of shipping water internationally came up often this past year. A company in Alaska is trying its hand on sending water all the way to India, while an Australian company is figuring out some savvy ways of adding water shipping to its mining industry.
Desalination Plants on the Rise
With the reality of needing to find new water supplies, the option of desalination is looking more intriguing for a number of companies and communities. Indeed for one coastal California community, building a desalination plant was their only hope of having enough water for citizens. However, some areas, such as the United Arab Emirates, rely too heavily on energy intensive desalination for their water. New forms of desalination technology that reduce the energy requirements and minimize the environmental footprint have to be uncovered for desalination to be a viable option for many communities.
Photo by Mission Blue
Activism on the High Seas
This year we saw an incredible push from ocean activists thanks to Sylvia Earle and her Mission Blue Voyage with TED. Brilliant scientists, researchers, conservationists, photographers and even cartoonists gathered to give talks about the value of our marine ecosystems and the state of the ocean, from acidification to warming temperature to pollution and more.
Keeping Tabs on World Water Health
The health of our rivers, watersheds, groundwater sources, and oceans are all under careful watch, as it should be with news such as half of all China's water is too polluted to drink, that the majority of the world's rivers are in a state of crisis, and the dangers fracking poses for water supplies. The technology to monitor pollution levels is getting better, however, and even NASA is on board, helping to monitor watershed pollution from space.
Smart Ideas for Water Purification
Because our water sources are so polluted, coming up with smart, cheap, simple, and accessible ways to purify it is important. Luckily designers and scientists are on the ball. This year we saw everything from nanotech transforming cotton cloth into simple solutions for killing bacteria in water, to light-activated water purifiers that can work 24 hours a day, to bottles that use UV light to clean a canteen's worth of water, to the marvelously futuristic giant floating pool that could clean rivers like a strainer. From the fantastic to the highly practical, ideas poured forth this year for how to clean our water supplies and ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water.
Moving Toward Conservation
And finally, where would we be without constant thinking around water conservation? Designers have been on the ball, coming up with everything from fake rocks that help conserve water during bath time, to bathroom mirrors that show you your water use and the impact of your running faucet, to surprisingly gorgeous water tanks that put your water use in front of you in the bathroom. While these ideas are wonderful, we were also happy to learn about cities and business that made real and effective improvements on water use, from San Diego, California curbing consumption by 11% citywide to business leaders focusing on how to turn water conservation into a lucrative market.
We have a long way to go before we return to sustainable, eco-friendly water use habits, but 2010 was a good year for educating us about the status of water globally, and our options and possibilities for a future with equal access to clean water.