Image Credit:; Alex Akamine

4 Companies Making Clean Water Abundant

There is not a place in the world where access to clean water is not of critical importance. No city, village, office, household, or human being can function properly without it. Yet we tend to maintain a certain cognitive dissonance from the issue of clean water access — at least in the United States–unless we find ourselves facing a crisis water like that in Flint, Michigan. Meanwhile, the WHO says that globally, over 1 billion people lack access to any sort of improved source of drinking water, directly causing millions of deaths every single year. Wherever you are, the next water crisis is looming.

Desalination is often touted as the necessary solution to clean water access, but the technological processes remain costly, and transportation of enormous volumes of water remains an issue for the billions who don’t live near coasts. Instead, clever social entrepreneurs are identifying other technologies that already exists to help make clean water abundant, or are investing their efforts into the exponential technologies that are on pace to soon be available in a cost-effective way.

Consider, for example, solar power technology developing to the point of being able to provide electricity, wifi, and clean water in disaster zones. Biomimicry is allowing us to create materials that make water from the air. Nanotechnology can destroy water contaminants — cheaply, anywhere.

The Global Grand Challenge of water — arguably the most ubiquitous of the 11 GGCs we focus on at Singularity University — is being impacted by exponential technologies at every turn, and increasingly the outlook is looking promising rather than bleak. Many companies — big and small — are making huge strides in bringing clean water to everyone.

4 Companies Making Clean Water Abundant

Lowe’s Clean Water Challenge Winner

Nine teams from the San Francisco Bay Area competed to build a cost-effective solar water pasteurizer in our 2015 Clean Water Challenge, hosted in partnership with Lowe’s Innovation Labs. One winning team’s device is capable of pasteurizing six gallons of potable water per hour, enough to supply the minimum water requirement for 30 people per day, and is made entirely of materials found at your neighborhood home goods store. The team’s leader, Ted Rees, said each unit could potentially service 10,000 gallons of water per year at roughly 1 cent per gallon.


The FREDsense team watches one of their devices quickly analyze a water sample.

Using biosensors made from engineered microorganisms and big data to gather complete and current data sets on water sources, FREDsense, a member of the first SU Labs Startup Accelerator and an SU Startup Network Company, expects to be impacting millions of people within the next five years. CEO Emily Hicks says that later this year they’ll deploy an arsenic biosensor and will work with municipal water districts to continuously and efficiently analyze chemicals found in water systems, potentially impacting millions.


OneRain devices like this one monitor rainfall, evaporation, and other forms of water to maintain robust, accurate data sets about local water.

Another extraordinarily effective use of big data in managing global water supplies comes from OneRain, a GSP13 startup that seeks to accurately measure water in all of its forms, from rainfall and surface runoff to lake storage and evaporation. Co-founder and Chairwoman of the Board Ilse Gayl makes the point that the more data that is made available, the smarter we can be in effectively managing water supplies.


In our 2015 SU Impact Challenge, we issued a challenge to leverage exponential technologies to make an impact locally and demonstrate an ability to reduce the affects of the California drought. The winner of our challenge, SunToWater, sells a personal, solar-powered atmospheric water extractor able to extract 40 gallons of water from thin air per day. CEO Benjamin Blumenthal anticipates that if drought conditions persist, their device could impact millions in California alone. SunToWater’s potential impact is especially vast given that the device can make clean water even from polluted city air. SunToWater is currently taking pre-orders for their next generation unit.

Learn more about our Global Grand Challenges and the brilliant minds working toward solving them at our first-ever Singularity University Global Summit in San Francisco, August 28–30, 2016.


Stories from Singularity University and the SingularityU community.

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Singularity University empowers leaders to leverage exponential technologies to solve global grand challenges.


Stories from Singularity University and the SingularityU community.