“Suck it up!” may be the words residents of developing nations begin to hear more and more when in search for clean drinking water. Well, at least that’s what social entrepreneurs from companies like Life Straw are hoping the 780 million people that lack access to clean water will do. Like more than half a dozen water purification for-profit ventures that actively participate currently, Life Straw recognizes that clean water is a global concern.
Water.org morosely reports that 3.4 million people die each year from water related diseases and “Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every 4 hours”.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), only 3% of the earth’s water is classified as freshwater and can be found in rivers, lakes, and below the ground. Moreover, 2% of the freshwater on earth is frozen in the form of glaciers and ice.
Still, 1% is still a lot of water. So is there really a fresh water crisis? Yes. And no. And probably.
Over 10 years ago in 2002 Coca-Cola omitted the word water in the “Raw Materials” section of its annual SEC filing. Moreover, in their 2010 10-k filing the company stated the following in the “Raw Materials” section: “…our Company recognizes water availability, quality, and sustainability… as one of the key challenges facing our business.”
Even companies seemingly more removed from water use, such as Intel, have water use policies. The first sentence of Intel’s Water Policy states, “Intel recognizes that water is a critical natural resource that is of strategic importance to our business and the communities in which we operate.”
You might also consider McKinsey & Company’s insight report from December 2009, which stated “One group of companies, including beverage, mining, and energy businesses, has found that growing water scarcity constitutes a threat to their social license to operate.”
However, the existence of companies like Life Straw, Sarvajal, and Slingshot suggest that if a clean drinking water crisis existed, it would be on its way to termination. Each makes their own unique splash in the water for profit industry. For example, Life Straw is a personal water filter that allows users to literally approach any body of water, insert the device, and drink clean water as if through a straw.
Sarvajal, a for-profit company founded in 2008, has water-dispensing ATMs in over 6 states in India. The company offers franchise opportunities and boasts serving nearly 9 billion liters of clean drinking water.
Perhaps the most feasible for use in the United States, considering the decreased government regulation of fracking, is Slingshot. Its inventor, Dean Kamen, believes that in less than 30 years, a gallon of water will cost more than a gallon of oil. Check out this Youtube video detailing Kamen’s invention which essentially vaporizes anything wet, then re-condenses the water, leaving behind materials that don’t vaporize including metals and toxins.
Finally, it should go without saying that whether or not our world has a water crisis, the purpose of conservation is to avoid truly desperate situations. With less than 1% of the globe’s freshwater drinkable, we should be more concerned about producing runoff, our businesses unnecessarily wasting water, and the impact of our sewage systems. It is unclear how much of the contamination of our freshwater supply can be reversed, but with a highly competitive water purification sector, we all have a drop of hope.