by Joachim Marc Christensen

Reduce and reuse is the theme of this year’s World Water Week, and it’s about more than taking shorter showers and collecting rainwater for your flower bed. Let’s take a closer look at two of the biggest business opportunities within water management.

Making every drop last  has not exactly been a matter of concern in Western culture. We open our tap and casually let the water flow as if it was free. Yet climate change will affect our weather and consequently our water supplies. Not just in already arid and sunbaked regions, but also in previously wet areas. A couple of years ago, California – the epitome of glamour and glut – learned the hard way the finite nature of fresh water as it suffered its worst drought in 1,200 years – a drought so severe it triggered the state’s first mandatory water restrictions. More recently, during this summer, Southern Europe was hit by a vaporizing heat wave, which resulted in a fierce drought pulverizing crops across Italy and Spain. Particularly Spain took action by regulating its precious agua to avoid total disaster. However, California and Spain have endured what many countries are battling every day. Ethiopia, for example, is currently in the middle of a drought jeopardizing the lives of over 18 million people and causing an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The signals are clear: globally, we need technology to help us make the most of our scarce water resources. Yet the realization that water management can help solve a myriad of different problems such as hunger and lack of clean water has sprouted a chain of growing markets ready for businesses to tap into. Let’s explore two of them, both included in the Global Opportunity Reports.

Smart Water Tech

The journey from water supply to tap can be long and leaky. The static water infrastructure found in most cities makes little room for water resilience in the case of heat waves, droughts and other extreme events. Therefore, turning existing networks of water pipes and pumps into adaptive and connected networks can help reduce both water and energy consumption. Moreover, when integrated with smart sensors detecting water use, both consumers and suppliers will have an unprecedented overview of the overall water consumption.

Take Calliope’s ‘Buoy’ sensor, for example. This sensor monitors and analyzes domestic water use and is connected directly to a smartphone app. This allows households to easily detect leaks and control water their supply remotely. This kind of technology can bring us into a new era where water is being treated as the precious resource it is.

In our newest edition of the Global Opportunity Report, business leaders voted the smart water tech market the biggest business opportunity out of 15 opportunities identified in the report. This is not a surprise given OECD’s estimates that this market could reach a value of $1T in 2025.

Water-Efficient Agriculture

Agriculture is the biggest consumer of freshwater, and therefore incredibly vulnerable to droughts and lack of rainfalls. However, there is  technology that helps smallholder farmers grow crops with even the scarcest of  water supplies. Precision is everything – it is all about delivering just the right amount of water directly to the plant. Combining traditional irrigation methods such as drip irrigation with new technologies such as low-energy pumps and soil sensors can quench the thirst of even the driest crops. Combined with better rainwater management – the harvesting and retention of rainfalls – even the most arid regions have the possibility of producing a healthy yield.

SunCulture, for example, has created a solar-powered irrigation system that saves up to 80 percent of water and helps farmers in Kenya revive their agro businesses (psst… check out our Q&A with SunCulture’s founder and CEO, Samir Ibrahim).

In our 2015 edition of the Global Opportunity Report, business leaders voted the market for water-efficient agriculture as the best business opportunity out of 15 – just as the smart water tech market in its sister publication. There is no doubt that business leaders see a big potential and need for managing water more precisely.

Find more information on smart water tech and water-efficient agriculture on the Global Opportunity Explorer and discover all the exciting solutions that make water available for millions of people around the world.