This article will discuss how advanced
water technologies can be used to optimize water usage. It
is one of a five part Water Tap series including Water
Analytics, Water Recycling, Desalination,
Advanced Water Technologies, and The U.S. and
Singapore Water Tap Comparison.
Advanced water technologies provide a partial solution to the
growing, worldwide water shortage. Indeed, the problem
is a large one. 700 million people worldwide suffer from
water scarcity and that number is expected to swell to 1.8
billion within the next decade. Innovative countries
such as Singapore, Israel, and Japan utilize advanced water
technologies such as desalination, smart meters, analytics,
and water recycling to meet the growing demand for fresh
water. In the United States, the need for clean, fresh
water is growing by the day.
The states with the most severe shortages are California,
Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas. Their severe
drought, increasing populations and the effects of global
warming have led to rationing, conservation, and involuntarily
foregoing water usage. The results are plain to see:
parched farmland lie newly abandoned; road signs flash
warnings of “extreme drought” and signs plead “Water = Jobs.”
According to the University of California, Davis, the drought
inflicted $1.5 billion in agricultural losses in 2014 alone.
Meanwhile, technology platforms are in place to drive
widespread innovation throughout the industry. The time
is ripe for advanced water technologies to bridge the gap
between supply and demand issues.
So far, the technology industry has suffered from
underinvestment and a lack of scalable technology.
Looking forward, innovative technology in the industry is
expected to become more prevalent. Federal and state
R&D tax credits are available to support the
commercialization of advanced water technologies and
potentially solve the growing worldwide crisis.
The Research &
Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and
Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13%
of eligible spending for new and improved products and
processes. Qualified research must meet the following four
New or improved products,
processes, or software
Technological in nature
Elimination of uncertainty
Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost
of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated
with developing a patent. On December 18, 2014,
President Obama signed the bill extending the R&D tax
credit for the 2014 year.
Innovations in the water industry are
lagging when compared to their industrial counterparts.
The Hamilton Project report by Stanford University describes
the financial and policy challenges that prevent innovations
from widespread use. A chart from that report below
shows the patent filing comparison between clean energy and
water purification. As seen below, research dollars and
patents in water tech are actually very low compared to clean
Comparison of U.S.
Patents Filed Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty for Clean
Energy and Water Purification, 1999-2011
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014.
As recognition of the worldwide water
shortage issue emerges, advanced water technology development
is expected to pick up steam. The mainstream advanced
water technologies include desalination, recycled water, and
water analytics. These topics are discussed in turn
throughout the five part series. Some other, less
traditional, innovative technologies being developed by
innovators around the world are discussed below.
American Water -
Voorhees, NJ – American Water provides smart meters, acoustic
supply pipeline monitoring, and other water infrastructure
technologies and services. American Water spent $1.9 million
on research and development in 2013.
Cambrian Innovation -
Boston, MA - Cambrian Innovation is a biotech company that has
created a bioelectric process to treat wastewater while
generating additional energy via biogas. Cambrian's EcoVolt
bioelectric units are portable and remotely monitored and
controlled and are the size of cargo containers. They
generate clean electricity and heat directly from industrial
wastewater streams at about 30-200kW. Some of
Cambrian Innovation's research was developed with support from
the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA).
Dutch Rainmaker -
Netherlands - Dutch Rainmaker creates windmills that use only
wind to create mechanical energy to compress moist air into
water. The efficient process is passive and requires
almost no maintenance. Two prototypes have been running for
the past two years in the Netherlands and Kuwait producing an
average of 7,000 liters of water per day.
Dutch Rainmaker wants to drive growth
of this technology to create sustainable, zero chemical, or
energy consumption water production with minimal operating
cost. Dutch Rainmaker is currently launching new applications
of their technology to clean and recycle water.
California is America's largest state by
population and confronts a dire water shortage problem. It is
no surprise that agriculture is a major consumer of water and
advancements in smart agriculture hope to manage, control, and
optimize water usage in agriculture. The same
technologies can be used in industrial applications.
University of California
UCLA's Water Technology Research Center's (WaTeR) mission is
to advance technologies of water production in order to
develop new and practical sources of water for different uses.
WaTeR's projects and research focus on sustainable water
production, water treatment, and water recycling. WaTeR also
provides services such as analysis, diagnostics, and
evaluations for water desalination and purification processes.
Columbia University's Earth Institute hosts the Columbia Water
Center - a research center that was establish to tackle the
water challenges of a rapidly changing world. The Columbia
Water Center collaborates with the other Earth Institute
entities and strategic partners to conduct scientific and
intellectual inquiries into assessment, understanding and
resolution of global water challenges. Columbia Water Center
examines water and climate needs and challenges from multiple
angles, integrating the needs of food and energy production
into their efforts.
Stanford is not only conducting research in conservation and
production technologies, but is also championing reform in
policy and water utility markets. A Stanford paper explains
the largest challenges facing water policy:
"Among the main management and policy
barriers are (1) unrealistically low water pricing rates; (2)
unnecessary regulatory restrictions; (3) the absence of
regulatory incentives; (4) lack of access to capital and
funding; (5) concerns about public health and possible risks
associated with adopting new technologies with limited
records; (6) the geographical and functional fragmentation of
the industry; and (7) the long life expectancy, size, and
complexity of most water systems."
Stanford University recently opened the Codiga Resource
Recovery Center at Stanford - a collaborative effort between
the university, its partners, and affiliates to accelerate
commercial development of new wastewater technologies. The
center hopes to develop and help bring to market wastewater
technologies that can be used to create useful water supplies
from captured and treated wastewater.
Temple University’s Water and Environmental Technology (WET)
Center aims to develop water quality and treatment
technologies. Temple's WET center has obtained grants from the
National Science Foundation (NSF) in the form of a $1 million
Accelerating Innovation Research grant, which aims to bring
innovations from Temple's WET center to the marketplace. This
$1 million grant was matched by the Pennsylvania Department of
Community and Economic Development with an additional $350,000
coming from the WET Center’s industrial partners. The NSF
grant is particularly important because it marks a recent
trend in the NSF - providing grants to not only conduct
R&D but also bring innovations to the marketplace.
The Colorado Water and Energy Research Center (CWERC) was
launched in 2011 to provide the public with an research center
focused on water resource and sustainability issues and to
enable citizen science projects on relevant topics. They also
conduct sample analysis, field studies, and modeling of sites
all over the world.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona's Water Resources Research Center
(WRRC) was established in 1957 to promote understanding of
state and regional water management and policy issues through
scientific research. WRRC promotes education and awareness of
water conservation and management. It is a member of the
National Institutes for Water Resources and a member of
several regional water education and policy programs.
The WRRC's funding amounted to $1.95 million in 2013, mostly
gained through private grants and state appropriations.
The worldwide water shortage is a large
one. Looking forward, innovative technologies will
provide a partial solution to problem. The biggest challenge
for both researchers and businesses trying to bring
innovations to market lay in funding their projects. Making
use of both federal and state R&D tax credits can help
innovations come to market and address the water shortages the
United States faces both now and in the future.