Weekly Trend: Water Innovations Needed to Save California from Severe Drought
As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, water conservation and drought solutions are in high demand. Last week, the California State Water Resources Control Board decided to expand and pass new regulations that aim to conserve this natural resource.
These new water regulations won’t only affect individual water consumers, but entire industries including the hospitality, restaurant and agricultural industries. According to Yahoo News, “restaurants will not be allowed to provide patrons with water unless they ask for a glass. Hotels will be required to put up placards in customers’ rooms giving them the option to forego having their towels and linens cleaned.”
Despite these restrictions, an article in U-T San Diego argues that these regulations do not reflect the seriousness and urgency of the situation. For example, one of the regulations prohibits individuals and businesses from watering their lawn within two days after it rains. As a result, the policy is “almost laughable in its timidity,” the article states.
The drought’s most prominent impact is in agriculture, and some people are reducing the amount of meat they consume in order to conserve water. According to Yahoo News, the animal-agriculture industry is responsible for 55 percent of water consumption. By contrast, individual household water usage accounts for only 5 percent of water consumption.
Agriculture as a whole is responsible for about 80 percent of all water consumption in the United States, which calls for innovation in “agtech.” One startup, Tule, is working to provide a solution in this industry by using data to inform farmers on their irrigation schedules. The technology developed and licensed at the University of California, Davis, measures the amount of water that evaporates from a field and uses that data to regulate, monitor and predict the best times to water crops.
Being able to monitor and visually track water usage and consumption is a method that not only promotes efficiency in the field, but also in neighborhoods. Early last year, the California Water Foundation, East Bay Municipal Utility District and WaterSmart Software released results of a study they conducted that showed how households were more likely to use less water when they were able to see their water consumption data compared to other individuals in the community.
“‘Californians want to use water responsibly, and most people believe they already do. This research shows that people are motivated to conserve water when you let them know that their water use exceeds that of similar homes,’ said Lester Snow, Executive Director of the CWF.”
With Californians and lawmakers on board to conserve the state’s water supply, the only missing link is the new technology that startups can provide to ease the impact of the drought. Not only is the state in dire need of watertech innovation, but the Golden State is also home to Silicon Valley: the capital of big tech industries and startups.
Its location next to the Pacific Ocean also makes it a prime spot for testing ways to increase water supply via desalination. In fact, a plant called Carlsbad Desalination Project is scheduled to distribute water to the San Diego county later this year. It will be the largest desalination project in the Western Hemisphere, according to an article in the Washington Post.
The article examines alternative ways startups can provide solutions to drought, highlighting water level monitoring startups such as Wellntel and WatrHub, which use data, analytics and technology to provide vital tools to professionals in the water industry. According to the article, anything from drones to bacteria can be used to tackle drought.
Even manipulating the weather is a possibility. A process called “cloud-seeding” was made popular when Beijing used weather modification in an attempt to control the rain during the 2008 Summer Olympics. China led the way in weather modification technology as the first country to create a Weather Modification Bureau. Now, this technique is being developed and used in 24 countries, including the United States, says the Post. If the weather can be controlled, there is potential for technology that induces rain over regions like California where drought is a serious problem.
The implementation of these watertech solutions is not limited to California’s severe drought though. If these startups can find innovative ways to supply waters to consumers, the new technology they develop could be used to help solve water crises in developing countries around the world.