During World Water Week, that oh-so-precious liquid is at the forefront of many environmental and green business efforts, and one of the keys to dealing with the global water crisis is effective use and treatment of wastewater. An estimated 90% of wastewater goes untreated, and if this issue is properly addressed, it could have a big effect on worldwide water consumption and conservation.
Imagine H2O, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs in their efforts to turn water challenges into business opportunities, holds an annual prize competition for water innovation, and this year's topic was wastewater. The global market value of wastewater is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year, so this type of innovation isn't just about feel-good ventures, it's also about the ability for water tech companies to also generate profits and jobs.
The winners of Imagine H2O's third annual competition are companies working on a variety of different problems, including turning wastewater from manufacturing into high-value chemical products, sequestering and removing heavy metals from industrial waters, the conversion of residential homes wastewater streams from gray water into near-potable water, and a process for companies to both reduce CO2 emissions while also manufacturing the chemicals they need for operations at the same time.
"This year's Imagine H2O prize finalists represent an impressive and encouraging pool of interesting ideas from around the world. These early-stage companies view wastewater not as waste but as a resource to be economically mined for value such as upgraded water, energy, or products." - Steven Kloos, Partner at True North Venture Partners and Imagine H2O judge
The winner of the Pre-Revenue track was Bilexys, of Brisbane, Australia, for developing an alternative manufacturing platform for the production of chemicals, which involve using wastewater and bioelectrochemistry as a source of for raw materials.
"Traditionally, wastewater treatment has been viewed as an operating expense of an industrial complex. Bilexys approaches wastewater treatment as an opportunity to biologically convert the organics within wastewater into high-value chemical products (including sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide)."
Nexus eWater, of Canberra, Australia, was a runner-up for the Pre-Revenue track for developing a solution which "harnesses the power of a home's wastewater stream by converting gray water into near-potable water, while recycling the water's energy for hot water heating." This process could allow homeowners to not only reduce their water use, but to also reduce their carbon footprint because it would internalize the costs for water heating.
Tusaar, Inc., of Lafayette, Colorado, was also named a runner-up for commercializing a technology which can remove contaminating heavy-metals from multi-chemical process and wastewater. The media they have developed is capable of sequestering over 40 different metals from industrial waters, and could provide a solution for coal-fired power plants in handling coal combustion fly ash pond management and groundwater contamination which is another unwanted byproduct of the power industry.
New Sky Energy, of Boulder, Colorado, won the Early Revenue track for a simple, sustainable chemical process which combines CO2 from the air or flue gas, and salts from industrial wastewater, to make CO2-negative solids called carbonates, which are widely used in manufacturing, power generation, water treatment, and agriculture.
"New Sky's technology can be implemented onsite at our customer's plants, converting wastewater, CO2 and other pollutants into many of the same chemicals the company already buys. Onsite manufacturing minimizes transportation costs and allows manufacturers to control their own supply chains. Customers can achieve significant cost savings while cleaning up their industrial operations."
Find out more about Imagine H2O and the water opportunity at their website.