India has about 18% of the global population but has access to only 4% of global water. With climate change affecting the water sources adversely, heavy pollution and poor monsoons leading to deficit rainfall year after year, the country is dealing with severe water crisis – more than 163 million Indians are unable to access clean water. With rapid urbanization, it is predicted that 21 of the major metropolitans and cities in the country will face ‘zero day’. This year, Chennai has already been reported dry with its major reservoirs drying up due to low yields from the weak Northeast monsoons for the past couple of years.
Water scarcity is at the core of the agrarian crisis in India and is eroding people’s health and causing sanitation to deteriorate. Experts believe that the water crisis in India and across the globe cannot be solved using traditional and rudimentary techniques and management solutions and that technology and cutting-edge innovations are indispensable to create a water sustainable future. Here are 7 startups that are enabling Governments and private entities to do so.
Startups aiming to solve the water crisis by leveraging technology
This WaterTech social impact startup is working towards democratizing access to reliable and clean drinking water by making it accessible and affordable to all. The startup leverages technology innovatively to tackle the water challenge. Their proprietary water ATMs are energy-efficient systems that use solar energy for water purification and vending, have easy-to-use user interfaces and payment mechanisms, IoT-based remote monitoring capabilities built into the cloud platforms (making repairs, upgrades, etc. seamless). These features enable continuous water access even in remote regions with unreliable grids.
Swajal has installed over 400 Water ATMs in railway stations, schools, urban slums, rural areas, bus stations, etc. The startup has currently impacted over 5 lakh people across 17 Indian states by democratizing access to clean drinking water. By encouraging people to bring their own utensils/ bottles to fill water, it has immensely reduced the use of single-use plastics and carbon footprint.
This WaterTech startup has interesting B2G and B2B models that promise great financial and social returns for investors, partners and sponsors. Apart from onboarding many corporate partners for CSR initiatives and franchise partners, the venture has raised funding of USD 1.2 million so far and is planning to raise USD 5 million in the next 2 years and to impact 20 million people in this same timeframe.
WEGoT is a social impact startup that seeks to provide data-based utility (Water, Electricity, Gas) management platform to help families make a difference to the environment and their budgets. The founders believe that the right data and insights on water availability and consumption provide the right foundation for water conversation and will reduce water use by 50% overtime.
The IoT-based, end-to-end water management solution – VenAqua, an economical ultrasonic sensor – from WEGoT enables clients (households, residential complexes and multistory buildings) to capture and understand water availability from different sources, their real-time water use patterns, leaks and wastages, etc. across multiple inlets and outlets and thereby, effectively manage their water and minimize costs. VenAqua can also track water treatment plants, sewage treatments plants, etc. for operational parameters and provide timely alerts for repairs, break downs, system failure, etc.
Having started primarily in Chennai, WEGoT has helped save over 300 million liters of water in 20,000+ homes across major cities in the country since its inception in 2015.
With water continuing to become a scarce commodity, Vassar Labs, a social impact startup, offers Smart Water Management solutions that leverage IoT, AI and ML. Their solutions provide real-time data and insights from satellites, sensors and models to bring end-to-end visibility to all water assets in a given geography/ location (village/ city/ district/ state) and promote smart decision-making about water consumption. They offer 8 different solutions under Smart Water Management namely –
The founders believe that real-time insights can enable governments at different levels and agencies to predict effectively (floods, droughts, rains, etc.), engage in strategic planning and ensure smarter management of the scarce commodity for the present and future generations. Vassar Labs is providing solutions to central government agencies and state governments. It was one of the 10 startups in the Google Launchpad Accelerator programme in 2018.
Started with the vision of building a water sustainable future where there are no dry taps and women don’t have to walk miles in search of water, Uravu Labs leverages solar power and cutting-edge tech innovations to source safe drinking water from thin air and improve access to clean and safe water.
The patent-pending microgrid aquapanel – EVA – utilizes 100% solar thermal energy to convert water vapor in the air into water and works effectively in all climatic conditions (even dry and arid areas) in a reliable manner. These aquapanels can provide abundant drinking water supply to schools, hospitals, entire communities and small factories even if they are in remote regions as these are off-the-grid solutions which do not require existing infrastructure (electricity, water, etc.). Having won awards and having been shortlisted as finalists in several global level challenges (Water Abundance XPRIZE, etc.), Uravu Labs is continuing to pitch at several other challenges and is currently crowdsourcing funds.
Founded with a mission of saving water through technology and enabling fair distribution of this scarce resource, Agua Water Systems are highly intelligent, wireless, one-of-a-kind water management system that allows seamless access to water inlets, outlets and meters. This Plug and Play system leverages AI to equip users with smart insights on water usage, water levels in different sources and thereby, plan and control their water consumption. This solution enables users to save up to 40% water, saving lakhs of rupees spent on water bills by large apartment complexes. This startup has won many awards and accolades including the SME Excellence Award for Research and Development 2015 from Karnataka Small and Medium Business Owner Association.
Small farmers’ lives and livelihoods are often adversely impacted by factors beyond their control – monsoon failures, poor electrification, costly inputs, poor water yield and so on. Based on this understanding, this social impact startup came up with the technology-based, modular Greenhouse-in-a-Box to help small and marginal farmers to overcome these challenges, producing 7 times more output with 90% less water and earning steady income from their farms. It is designed to fit in 2% of the farmland and costs only 50% of what a regular greenhouse would. The farmers receive forward and backward linkage support too. Water being a scarce commodity in large parts of rural India, 90% water savings on agriculture is a big leap forward.
With the World Bank predicting that over 67% of the global population will not have access to clean drinking water by 2025 and global agencies declaring water scarcity a global problem, several next-gen technology solutions are being developed by startups across the globe. Here are a few noteworthy examples.
Creating a water sustainable future is critical and these startups are propelling us towards it with their cutting-edge technological innovations.