While there have been continuous advancements in many areas of technology, technological innovations where water is concerned have been almost nonexistent in recent years. Granted there are some narrow examples like water filtration systems, which have improved and are less expensive and more accessible. However, with respect to creating new water sources and massive municipal or statewide water systems, there really hasn’t been any meeting of the minds between the technology and water communities.
What could be holding innovation back?
The reality is that there hasn’t been enough interest in trying to fix California’s water issues because there isn’t enough money to be made, though this is slowly changing as the extended drought is forcing businesses to engage with technology companies to find better ways of managing water. The scarcity of water projects can also be attributed to a lack of political will on the part of policymakers to aggressively court options to increase water storage and production.
Due to this lack of urgency and lobbying by state and federal agencies, California has failed to create any new large water projects in 40 years. Meanwhile, the state’s population has almost doubled. Moreover, given the current lack of political interest, it comes as no surprise that innovators are discouraged in their efforts to find solutions to the current water problem. Consider the privately funded desalt plant in San Diego that will begin production next year. Almost a decade passed before construction could begin due to a bevy of permits and lawsuits. And, even after those hurdles were finally cleared, construction was halted a number of times. Before one gallon of water can be pumped, the plant will have cost investors billions of dollars.
Vertical farming—a hot new area for investors
In California, agriculture uses 70 to 80 percent of the developed water supply. Therefore, improving water management in farming is an important agenda. While advancements have been slow, a number of recent projects have been established in the Salinas Valley to find better ways to use water and limit water runoff.
Still, in many other areas of the country, traditional farming is not feasible. Consequently, many people are looking into vertical farming, which consists of growing crops in self-enclosed towers that are not affected by external factors, such as bugs. Given the current water situation in California, more investors are exploring this new farming technique as a way to reduce water consumption. This is because vertical farming is done in a controlled climate and therefore requires less water.
Water technology for consumers—Skydrop, a smart sprinkler controller
Skydrop sells for approximately $200 and works with your existing drip system to increase efficiency in watering. In essence, the device controls the amount of water used based on local weather conditions. You simply need to fill in information about plant type and soil composition. Then, via Wi-Fi connection, Skydrop uses weather data to determine optimal times and duration for watering. The system is programmed so that even in the absence of rain, if there is very heavy fog and damp ground, it won’t water because the plants are already getting sufficient moisture.