Welcome, everyone, to the State Department on this second day of spring, and I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Kerri-Ann Jones. I’m the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs. And I think you’ll find today’s session very interesting, although we did bring you in from beautiful weather, but we do have many exciting speakers, and I think you’ll hear a lot of interesting comments from them. But the real stars of today’s show will be the new technologies and the creative ideas that you hear today.
As many of you know, the United Nations General Assembly created World Water Day in 1993 as an opportunity to focus on the importance of our freshwater resources. Tomorrow will mark the 21st annual World Water Day. The designation invites us to consider the many challenges facing our vital water resources, which are central. Water is central to our human development, our economic growth, our security, and to the health of our ecosystems. This is the fourth straight year that the State Department has held an event to really bring attention to this issue. We feel this is a priority issue on the foreign policy agenda.
By choice this year, we are marking World Water Day with a focus on solutions. And I am pleased that our speakers and exhibitors will be offering ideas and technologies that we can incorporate in our way forward. Technology and innovation alone will certainly not resolve issues of absolute scarcity or equitable distribution, but they can make a difference, and they can contribute to solutions.
But before our speakers get started, I want to recognize our partner, the U.S. Water Partnership, for its role in pulling this complex event together. Among the many minor miracles they’ve worked – and there have been many – is the independent panel process they created to select the brilliant water tech devices you’ll hear about later in this program.
We also want to thank and recognize our U.S. Water Partnership sponsor, McWane Incorporated, and its president, Ruffner Page, who is here today, for its support to the U.S. Water Partnership. And their support has helped make today’s event possible.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Cathy Novelli, our new Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. Sworn into office just a month ago, Cathy comes to the Department by way of Apple, Inc., where she was vice president for worldwide government affairs. Prior to that, she was a partner in the Washington office of the law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe, & Maw, where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on matters of trade and environment – and investment. It should be investment. I add environment because I think environment should be everywhere. (Laughter.)
But Cathy is no stranger to government, having spent many years in the White House Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In that capacity she coordinated a wide range of policy issues and negotiated many bilateral trade investment agreements with partners in Eastern and Western Europe and countries of the Mediterranean. Prior to joining USTR, Cathy served in the Office of General Counsel at the Department of Commerce. She is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two law degrees, one from the University of Michigan and another from the University of London.
Cathy, we’re glad you’re at the State Department and we welcome you to the podium. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you very much, Kerri Ann. One thing that is probably not obvious from my resume, but from among the agreements that I got to negotiate when I was at USTR was the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, which was the first free trade agreement to have in the body of the agreement an environment chapter. And it was a huge privilege to work on that agreement and to work with the Jordanians, who actually did a – their first ever public comment process about what should be in there. So even though I’m not completely as experienced as Kerri Ann, I love these issues and I hope that I can do everything I can in my capacity to push these things forward.
It is a real pleasure to be here today with Kerri Ann, with Dr. Holdren, and all of you to mark World Water Day. Today’s event would not be possible without the support of the U.S. Water Partnership, as Kerri Ann mentioned, and its members. The Partnership is entering its third year and now has 87 members from across the U.S. Government, business community, and civil society. Unfortunately, Secretary Kerry was unable to join us today. As you know, he is passionate about environmental issues, including water, climate change, and oceans, and I share that passion.
As Kerri Ann mentioned, I am the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. This role has the ability to look at the intersection of economics, energy, and environment. And water is one area where we see these intersections and tradeoffs quite clearly.
The international community created World Water Day in 1993 as a constant reminder of the fundamental and integrated nature of water. Unfortunately, too many of us still take water for granted. But there is hope. Coming from Apple, I have seen firsthand how technology can quickly change the world. So I’m especially pleased to be surrounded by such an esteemed group of innovators and technologists. I commend your efforts to roll up your sleeves, figure out, and mobilize solutions to one of today’s most complex challenges.
Consider this: By 2050, the OECD predicts that there will be nine and a half billion people on Earth, and that we will need 80 percent more energy, 55 percent more water, and 60 percent more food to meet our demand. As McKinsey reports, by 2030, if we continue business as usual, water demand could outstrip supply by 40 percent. This has the potential to put $3 trillion of the global domestic product, or 22 percent of the world’s economy, at risk.
At the heart of this high-stakes challenge is the water-energy-food nexus. To produce energy, we need water. Most people equate water and energy production with dams, but almost all methods we have of producing energy require some water or can have an impact on our water resources. In the United States, for instance, some 50 percent of our freshwater withdrawals go towards creating thermoelectric power. At the same time, getting people the water they need where they need it requires energy. If you’ve ever carried a gallon of water around or shoveled any snow this winter – and more is on the way, I understand – you know that water is heavy. If we are going to be serious about reducing our energy needs and about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then we need to be smarter and more efficient about how we move, treat, and use our water resources. And we need to do all of this conscious of the impacts water can have not only on people but also on our environment.
Our forests, our wetlands, our oceans, and all of the biodiversity these systems support depend on water. We’ve all seen the pictures of the shrinking of Lake Chad and heard about the resulting conflicts between farmers, fishers, herders, and wildlife. We are concerned at the rapid and potentially unsustainable development of some of the world’s most important rivers, like the Mekong in South East Asia, a system on which more than 70 million people depend. Like Lake Chad and the Mekong River, much of the world’s water resources are shared among communities, between nations, and between regions. In fact, there are over 260 shared river basins.
As competition for these increasingly scarce freshwater resources increases, tensions will likely rise as well. Climate change will exacerbate these challenges and tensions. Our natural systems for storing water, glaciers and snowpack, are projected to decline in many water-scarce resource regions. Drought, coupled with increasing demands, will stress local communities and countries. Mitigating these tensions requires us to innovate and work together to sustainably manage these shared water resources.
For all these reasons, the United States is working to create a more water-secure world. Here in this room, we have the brain trust for solutions – scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, NGOs, even a few diplomats, all with the same goal: To excite the world about American-developed innovative technologies for solving some of the world’s most pressing water challenges. We have colleagues from USTDA, Ex-Im Bank, OPIC, SBA, EPA, and the State Department here to discuss how they can support your efforts to market new technologies at home and abroad.
Sustainable economic growth means smart development that does not prejudice our future or the environment. It is a privilege to be here with all of you, working in partnership to that end. I am confident that together, we can change the current trajectory and preserve our future. Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Thank you, Cathy. I’d now like to introduce our next distinguished speaker, Dr. John Holdren. John is someone I have known for many years and is a friend and a colleague, and he is also right now serving in a very important position in this Administration. He is President Obama’s science advisor and the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. That’s a very, very busy office, so we very much appreciate the time he has taken to come here this afternoon and share his insights on the power of scientific and technological innovation to help us solve the wide array of water, food, energy, and climate challenges that the world faces.
Prior to joining the President’s team, John was a professor and director of the science, technology, and public policy program at Harvard University as well as a director of the Woods Hole Research Center. Before that, he was on the faculty of UC Berkeley, where he cofounded an interdisciplinary program in energy and resources. John also served former President Clinton as a member of the President’s Council of Science Advisors, where he worked on nuclear energy and technological innovation issues. He holds advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics from MIT and Stanford.
John, welcome to the State Department. (Applause.)
MR. HOLDREN: Well, thank you, Kerri Ann. It’s a great pleasure to be here this afternoon with you and Under Secretary Novelli and Ambassador Hattie Babbitt. And it’s a pleasure to bring greetings from President Obama to all of the participants in this event. I think it’s an exciting event. It’s an important event. And I applaud everybody who came together to make this event happen.
The theme of the meeting today, of course, as everybody knows, is the global water challenge and the role of innovative technologies in addressing water and sanitation issues. I want to spend a few minutes on three points that provide some context for those efforts. First one is the relationship between water stress and climate change, the second is the water-energy nexus, and the third is how sustainable water resource management and innovative science and technology can really make a difference in the domain of these challenges.
Now, climate change is exacerbating many of the challenges related to water in the United States and around the world. I’m going to mention here six specific aspects of climate change that have significant impacts on the natural cycle that governs the global and regional supplies of fresh water. Those impacts, of course, do vary by region, but in general, in a warming world, we can expect shifting circulation patterns which together with the associated uneven warming and dissociated uneven evaporation are altering the geographic distribution of precipitation.
Secondly, more moisture in the atmosphere overall, leading to an increase in the fraction of precipitation that occurs in heavy downpours, is leading to increased losses to storm runoff. Third, more mountain precipitation falling as rain rather than as snow is reducing snowpack and thus reducing runoff available through the summer and fall. Fourth, earlier melting of mountain snowpack in the spring is also leading to reduced runoff through summer and fall. Fifth, the temperature-induced shrinkage of the mountain glaciers that feed many of the world’s rivers is putting their flows at risk. And finally, increased loss of water to evaporation from soil, from lakes, from reservoirs, and from rivers, is resulting from the higher overall temperatures.
Those impacts are imposing significant stresses on the water system, including slower recharge rates for groundwater, reductions in available surface water for human use, increased intensity of flood events in some regions and intensified droughts in others, and reductions in water quality that accompany many of these other phenomena.
In short, climate change impacts are projected to create a triple whammy of effects on the water system: not enough water in some regions in some time of year, even as global average precipitation increases; too much water in some regions and some times of year in the form of increasingly damaging floods; and finally, substantial water quality and sanitation challenges that further affect fresh water supply. And that’s just the supply side. We can also talk about demand.
As demand for water rises, its major use categories compete for a declining supply within any given water region. Those major categories include agricultural uses, mainly irrigation which is by far the largest user of water in agricultural regions; industrial uses, such as power plant cooling; and municipal uses, such as showering, running dishwashers and washing machines and watering lawns. Importantly, these uses need to be balanced with the need to preserve sufficient remaining flows in the environment to maintain ecosystem health and the associated ecosystem services. In an ideal world, all of these demand side factors should be considered in an integrated context with supply issues and with sanitation and treatment questions. That’s a tall order.
I want to focus on one crosscutting piece of the picture, a piece that is illustrative both of the complexity of the matter and of the possibilities for progress – namely, the intersection of water and energy. One part of that intersection is the way the energy technologies on which the world and the United States still depend for more than 80 percent of their primary energy supply, namely the fossil fuel technologies, are driving the climate change problem that is affecting water in the many ways I’ve already described.
The other two parts of that intersection are water for energy and energy for water. Water for energy includes, as the under secretary already mentioned, not only water for hydropower, but also the water requirements of fuel production and reclamation after production; the water requirements of fuel processing, of fuel transport – for example, in the case of slurry pipelines – for power plant cooling; for power plant maintenance, including even washing the dust off of solar collectors; and ultimately, for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.
We need to pay more attention to optimizing the fresh water efficiency of all of these energy supply processes, taking advantage of new technologies, including those that allow for the safe and productive use of nontraditional water sources such as brackish water and industrial and municipal wastewater.
The other side of that coin, energy for water, includes the energy requirements for pumping ground water to the surface; for long-distance transport of water, including over mountain ranges in water projects; for treatment of sewage and other forms of wastewater; and for desalination of brackish and ocean waters. Here too, we need creative new approaches in order to increase the efficiency of water treatment and distribution systems, and to put to productive use wastewater from energy operations and waste heat from power plants and industrial processes.
Foundational to achieving all of those aims is the need to improve access to and exchange of water data and information, including better modeling of the hydrologic cycle to include the impact of human decisions about water use. A coordinated push with the ingredients I’ve indicated could halt the vicious circle of inefficient energy use that exacerbates inefficient water distribution and treatment systems, which in turn requires more energy and places even more demands on declining fresh water.
In place of that vicious cycle, we can imagine a virtuous one in which water-efficient energy sources support energy-efficient water delivery and treatment, complemented by innovative techniques for reducing wastewater creation, and for matching water quality to the requirements of different uses.
This of course brings me to the theme of this event, which is all about spurring innovation in science and technology for energy-efficient water sanitation and treatment, and for safely exploiting nontraditional sources of water around the world. The companies here today are bringing forward groundbreaking techniques for getting the most out of the water we’ve got, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about endorsing that idea. The challenges in this domain are of course very large.
To use one example from desalination – that is, desalting – the energy needs of current desalination technology as applied to sea water are between 12,000 and 18,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per million gallons of fresh water produced. Today, a sea water desalination plant is being built in the state of California near San Diego that will operate, within that energy range, capacity of about 50 million gallons a day or 55,000 acre feet per year. That output corresponds to the urban water needs of about 250,000 Californians. That is already no small feat. But put it in the context of California’s total energy demand, you would need 65 such plants to meet half of the urban water demand in California. And you would need – excuse me – an additional two gigawatts of base-load electricity generation capacity to feed the electricity needs of those 65 desalination plants.
That example makes clear that we need more innovation in the development of desalination techniques like the exciting brackish water desalination prize that I understand Chris Holmes and USAID will be unveiling later today. It also makes clear that we will need additional options and alternatives besides desalination, much like our clean energy efforts and all-of-the-above strategy as required in this case – a strategy grounded in integrated, sustainable decision making at regional scales in the context of a changing climate.
With that, I look forward to learning about exciting breakthroughs that this event will surely generate, and I thank you again for the opportunity to take part. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Thank you, John. We’d now like to hear from the U.S. Water Partnership, represented by many of you here today, but we would like to hear from the chair of the partnership, Ambassador Hattie Babbitt, who chairs the Steering Committee. Ambassador Babbitt has long been engaged on the vital issues of water conservation and development. I would say she’s a real champion on these issues, and I’ve been very lucky to work with her over the last several years on these issues.
She served from 1993 to 1997 as the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, and from 1997 to 2001 as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Babbitt continues to serve today with many organizations such as the World Resources Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Population Action International.
Hattie, welcome back to the State Department. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR BABBITT: Thank you very much. It was great to hear from John Holdren. We’re great to have – it’s great to have Chris Holmes here from USAID, from the folks in the Small Business Administration and our other government, civil society, and private sector partners.
You all's support, everyone’s support for the water technology innovation helps to build this cross-sector partnership that we have been working on so hard since 2012. The U.S. Water Partnership was launched in this very building in 2012. It was in response to a national intelligence assessment of risks and security issues in the future. The issue with regard to the stress that water scarcity puts on our planet and on our people has been reiterated in the – just recently in the 2014 Department of Defense QDR. We are working on something which is urgent, we’re working on something which the intelligence community, the defense community, the State Department, and all of you here recognize is both urgent and fixable.
One of the things I think that is the most satisfying about working on many of these water issues – not all of them, we haven’t licked the desalination issue, as John just mentioned – but many of these issues are fixable. If you look at water and sanitation and hygiene, we need the mechanisms and we need the cooperation, but there are things that we can fix, and one of the things that’s clear that we – that was clear when we started the U.S. Water Partnership and that has become more clear as we have gathered partners together is that we can make a much greater impact together than we can make individually. So I’m very happy that we have 87 partners, we have 19 federal agencies, we are growing with a commitment that we – as a – with a collaborative and holistic approach, we can solve these problems.
Innovative technologies play a hugely important role in our ability to do that fixing. Our five – our four goals include improving water sanitation, hygiene, the wash issues; advancing integrated water resource management; increasing the efficiency and productivity of water use; and improving governance. Technology’s a key enabler for achieving that water-secure world.
As we’ll hear later from Charles Fishman, who’s here with us – and I guarantee you you’re going to enjoy him. He has a lot of information to give us and he’s a very good storyteller. As he describes in his book, The Big Thirst, many civilizations have been crippled or destroyed by an inability to understand water or manage it. We have a huge advantage over generations of people who have come before us because we can understand water and we can use it smartly.
As I walked through the Exhibit Hall earlier – and all of you must do it, it was a very – it’s a very impressive bunch of technologies and exhibits – I was impressed, really, by the ingeniousness and the diversity of the technologies represented. These really do have a – the potential for a transformative effect on this entire sector. Seventy percent of the planet’s fresh water is used for irrigation. Large-scale improvements in agricultural water use are key to getting – to managing both water scarcity and – and I think this is a very important issue brought up by one of the earlier speakers – and for addressing the nexus between water and food. We are not only in a water-scarce planet because of the issues that John talked about, but we are also living in a hungry planet, and it will only get more hungry. So attacking these agricultural issues are a key to progress, and we think we’ve got some technologies in the Exhibit Hall that can help with that, and we know that there are many of you in the audience with other good ideas.
Let me give you some examples of partners and what they’re doing. Our new partner member Xylem Inc’s innovation lies in the simplicity of low-cost, low-energy, easy-to-use treadle pumps to improve irrigation for small-scale farmers. It’s probably the most interactive and fun exhibit in the Exhibit Hall because you can actually get on it and pretend you’re on your morning treadmill and think – and watch what progress you’re making in terms of getting the water out of the ground. It’s – so I encourage you to see it. I encourage you to look at others. The Xylem treadle pump is a basic kind of thing. It’s been successfully piloted – successful – basic kind of machinery – has basic kind of machinery. It’s been successfully piloted in India, but can obviously be used in – for irrigation in rural communities in Africa and Asia and Latin America as well.
Another partner, IDE, is working with Toro to pilot applying Toro’s cutting-edge drip irrigation technology with IDE’s experience in social enterprise to bring this technology to smallholder farmers. I think that’s one of the things that’s most important about the partnership with Toro, mostly using – working on a much grander scale, and partners who are – whose focus is on working with folks in developing countries who need to figure out how to use innovative technology and which one is the best for them and how to keep it – how to use it sustainably. USAID – thank you, Chris – is helping to fund that effort.
The partnership also offers key access – and I know that this – I know Washington and the funding mechanisms are a mystery to most of us who didn’t grow up in a world of Washington acronyms, but one of the things that the partnership can offer those of you on the technology side is access to key U.S. federal export donor technical agencies that can help move these processes out more broadly across the very desperate world that needs them. For example, Valmont Industries is partnering with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and World Vision to implement, center, pivot irrigation technology to improve community farming in Ghana, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
USAID, also one of my prior homes, is discussing using center-pivot irrigation as pilots in its new Feed the Future initiative. Chris will share an update on the finalists for USAID’s Securing Water For Food Grand Challenge for Development. We haven’t gotten any better at names, Chris, they’re all – (laughter) – there you have – there’s no way to do this except read it – which will facilitate partnerships between corporations, governments, NGOs, and others. Our partners at NASA are offering earth observation technologies to assist with early-warning systems so that – to help farmers build resilience to droughts such as those currently existing in California.
But here’s the glory of the U.S. Water Partnership, if I may, and talking about it with this: Governments alone don’t have the resources or the capacity to deal with the scale and the complexity of the challenges, and we really need your cooperation and your ingenuity with the technological side of that. I would – private sector partners are key to making this happen, and we hope that the partnership – our goal was that the partnership help all of our diverse partners come together in a way so that collaboration does work.
I want to invite one of our collaborators to speak next. Our private sector partners, such as today’s sponsor, McWane, will play a key role in bringing resources to areas of greatest need. In addition to the generous support from McWane for this event, McWane is demonstrating every day that collaboration works when trying to address these global water challenges. I want to introduce the president of McWane, Inc., Mr. Ruffner Page. And just to show you how incestuous this all is, I saw his name and I thought, “You know, Ruffner’s a family name of mine. I wonder if we’re – if we have common family members.” And yes, indeed, his family had gone through – long ago, we all – long ago, I’m sure, somewhere in my genealogical chart and his there’s a cross. (Laughter.) But I didn’t know that until an hour ago.
Anyway, McWane is a leading water infrastructure company that is pioneering new technologies to improve water efficiency. Ruffner Page has served as the president of McWane since 1993, and he has successfully diversified the business and overseen a record expansion of the company, and I’d say that even if he weren’t a shirttail relative, so – (laughter) – but please join me in welcoming Ruffner Page. (Applause.)
MR. PAGE: Good afternoon. I’ve been asked to take a few minutes and describe one little piece of how we think we can improve water efficiency. We – we’re at both ends of the spectrum. We make the old products – ductal iron pipe, fire hydrants, valves, drain pipe, that kind of thing. And we have operations mostly in the United States, but in the Middle East, in South America, and Asia as well.
But we’ve acquired a little software company that has an operating system. So if you think about this room – if you think about Windows 8, which runs your PC, is the size of this room, just the physical software. Microsoft also has a .net version that’s meant to be for mobile purposes, and I imagine it’s about the size of this podium. SNAP, which is made by a company called Synapse, that we acquired, their operating system is about the size of the tip of my finger. Why that’s important is that the simplicity and the size of the operating system leads to the low cost and low-power use of the operating system.
So we have a very tiny little operating system that’s very robust and stable. It sits on a chip. The chip sits on a radio. The radio can communicate either to 100 feet or three miles, but what it does, it automatically sets up a mesh network, that mesh network, and then you can upload applications just like you download apps on your phone. And what’s unique about the operating system, that it allows for if-then, sort of distributed computing. So our idea – we’ve deployed this in hospital environments where we need to use sensors to monitor where people are, who washed their hands, HVAC systems where equipment is. Any application you can envision can be written and uploaded to operate on the software on the operating system. And there’s really an unlimited number of sensor points.
We have a lighting system in Ontario, Canada with 10,000 lights that are connected into this operating system. But the cool thing about it is that you can program it to where, out on the operating system, it can do if-then distributive decision making. So the thought we have, and the reason Tom asked me to come talk about this is, is we have not deployed it in a water environment, but we want to.
And if you imagine in an urban environment where you have a dense number of water lines, sewer lines, valves, hydrants, we can put transducers down in the water, we can measure the flow of the water. But those are just sensors. And each module or node, which is what the operating system we call is, can sit on top of a fire hydrants, let’s say. Well, one of the advantages of it being very small is each of those modules probably cost three bucks, including the chip and the radio.
So imagine a mesh network that goes across the water system, in an urban environment, in which you can gather the data real-time of the water being moved – how much, where it is, where is there stagnant water in the lines. A third of our water gets lost every year to leaks. Be able to identify where that could be coming from.
I know there are other exhibitors here that have meters where they can measure that sort of thing. Our operating system would be great to measure the data coming off of the meters rather than using a cellular base, because inside the mesh network is free. Basically, the data’s gathered in the mesh network. It goes to a gateway where then it goes through the internet for the download of the data.
So it’s one small example, I think, of how we can take many, many steps to improve the efficiency of the water systems. We talk about here the limited resources that we have; I think this is a good example of how we can preserve the resources in terms of how we use it.
I’d like to next introduce Mr. John Spears, Director of Clusters and Skills Innovations Initiatives of the Small Business Administration, to talk about how to help innovative entrepreneurs.
MR. SPEARS: Good afternoon, and thank you for that introduction. And thank you to the State Department and the U.S. Water Partnership for hosting this great event. Last night I was putting my daughter to bed, she’s four and a half, and I told her I was speaking today and she gave me some really incredible advice and made me promise to follow through with it. She said if you just tell the audience you love them and you hope you enjoy the speech, then everything’s going to be okay. (Laughter.) And so being the honest dad that I am, I love you all and I hope you enjoy the speech. (Laughter.) (Applause.)
As mentioned, I work at the Small Business Administration as the director of Clusters and Skills Initiatives. Small businesses are the key to our economic growth. There are 28 million small businesses in America. Half of all Americans either work for or own a small business. Two-thirds of all the new jobs come from small businesses. And small businesses create 13 times more patents than large companies. And at the SBA, we help to support the growth and expansion of small businesses by providing access to capital, counseling, technical assistance, contracting assistance, and innovation and investment support. And as you know, creating value through innovation is more than just developing new products, new services, new technologies. Strategic innovation as it relates to economic growth requires organizations to rethink and adopt new and different approaches to their business model. This oftentimes requires looking at the entire ecosystem and making strategic interventions to improve and engage networks, partnerships, and flows of capital.
Small businesses are well positioned to develop these new ideas, but the commercialization of these new technologies that are powerful only can come through collaboration – collaboration between key innovation assets, as we call them – so financial vendors, capital, technical service providers, local governments, federal agencies, and the private sector.
In the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, you saw large companies – companies like GM, GE, and Kodak – lead the way in innovation. But times have changed and small businesses are now the leaders of innovation. However, the innovation ecosystem is a bit fragmented for small businesses. These small businesses don’t necessarily have the access to the same resources as larger companies do, or rather, did in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, which is why developing effective innovation ecosystems for small businesses is so important. And SBA is pleased that the U.S. Water Partnership is providing a platform to enhance collaboration of regional economies and our SBA Funder Clusters Initiatives. And this partnership has the real potential to leverage both our public investment and private capital.
We have a great example, the Milwaukee Regional Water Accelerator, and this consortium received a multiagency award to launch a brand new water center which opened just last fall. The partners involved in this collaboration are focused on integrating workforce development programs focused on water systems. They’re providing the infrastructure necessary for firms to explore new technologies, and they’re delivering small business training and counseling to strengthen and diversify the base of water-oriented entrepreneurship.
Our partner on the ground, the Small Business Development Center located at the University of Wisconsin, recently reported the creation of 25 new jobs by historically underutilized businesses who recently received technical assistance from this cluster. And that’s great news both for the SBA, for innovation, as well as our clusters program.
SBA agrees with U.S. Water Partnership that both innovation and integration are the future of small business and the key to economic and social progress around the world. Innovation means that small businesses can more quickly develop better and more effective ways to solve problems, and integration means that we can put together the very best team from a variety of different disciplines to solve some of the most significant challenges facing our planet. This combination of both innovation and integration is a winning proposition for our small businesses, and we can indeed accomplish a lot by working together.
In closing, I think we can all agree that global water challenges call for American ingenuity and partnerships among the private sector, U.S. federal agencies, civil society to better develop technologies that address local water challenges but are implementable on a global scale. Thank you again so much to the State Department and the U.S. Water Partnership for hosting us today. I hope you have a great rest of your day. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: I’m prepared to speak for the rest of you and say that he can report to his daughter – (laughter) – that he was warmly received. (Applause.)
I’d now like to introduce Charles Fishman, who is the author of The Big Thirst. He was a reporter for a number of important newspapers, magazines – for those of you in the audience from Washington, including The Washington Post. The little explanation here I have says, “In the course of reporting about water to write The Big Thirst, Fishman has stood in the bottom of a half-million gallon sewage tank, sampled water directly from the springs in San Pellegrino, Italy and Poland Spring, Maine, and carried water on his head for three kilometers with a group of Indian villagers.” He sounds like somebody who can walk the talk. He is also the author of the book about water which has sold the most copies in the last 25 years. So hopefully he’s – somebody’s listening.
MR. FISHMAN: I never go anywhere without my water. Thank you, Ambassador Babbitt. I am delighted to – I’m always delighted, but I’m delighted today to spend the afternoon with a room filled with water geeks. And if you’re here this afternoon, you are a water geek. Your secret’s safe with me. I won’t out you if you don’t want to be outed.
I am a journalist. I’m a reporter. And when I was in India, I got to spend a month in India trying to understand India’s water problems. I did do the water walk with a group of women and girls from the village of Jargali, which is just outside of Delhi, about 50 miles. The women and girls of Jargali walk to the well and back in the morning and the afternoon every single day of their lives, six kilometers roundtrip. And I joined that group on a nice day in May. I walked with a 12-year-old girl named Anjana. I would say Anjana weighed half what I weigh, and she carried twice the amount of water that I carried. I carried about this much water, a little bit less. I carried two and a half gallons of water. She carried four and a half gallons of water. Her mother carried eight gallons of water. So this on my head weighs 25 pounds. Anjana’s mother carried water and carries water every day that weighs 70 pounds. And Anjana herself carried almost 50 pounds of water back from the well. I carried this amount of water in a bucket. I spilled half of it. It took me an hour. (Laughter.) And I was – before spilling, I had walked for an hour to carry enough water to flush a U.S. toilet once. So what you discover when you carry water on your head is that it’s an extremely poor way of moving water. (Laughter.)
Seven hundred million people in the world every day either walk to get their water or rely on someone who does walk. That’s more than twice the number of people in the United States of America. That’s extraordinary. In fact, at this moment, more people in the world have cell phones than have access to clean, safe water every day. A billion people manage to survive today without cell phones. More than 2 billion people either don’t have access to clean, safe water every day or have to walk to get it, and even when they walk, there’s a dubious supply. What that means is that there are actually a billion people who have cell phones who also don’t have access to clean, safe water. I don’t think it’s a random comparison. For me, it’s a very meaningful comparison. It should be a goad to us. Ten years ago, almost no one had cell phones on a global basis. And if cell phones can leap across something as basic as water, we should be able to solve our water problems.
And I think part of what’s exciting about being here today and about the U.S. Water Partnership and about the event that the partnership and the State Department have put together is that I hope you’ll leave here with some sense of energy. Here’s what I want you to leave with today, three things I want you to walk out the door with when we’re done. One is a sense of the incredible creativity and innovation that is going on in the world of water. Water’s actually been a little bit stagnant in the last 50 years. The last big water revolution was a hundred years ago. That water revolution helped raise the average length of life in the United States and in the developed world by a third in just 40 years, and we need to have that same impact in the rest of the world. And there is this incredible blossoming of innovation going on everywhere. You’ll – you’ve heard a little bit about it. You’ll see it up on stage in a moment. And of course, in the expo, there is yet more. So that’s point one. The revolution is coming to water, and you’re getting a taste of it today.
Point two is I hope, in the back of your mind, you will lodge a little voice. Technology is really important. It’s really valuable. But there are no water problems that don’t have solutions. Most of the time, what gets in the way of solving water problems isn’t water or technology. It’s matching the solution to the setting. It’s matching the solution to the people. So keep that in mind as you look at solving water problems. Not every solution is right in every setting. The hard part is often the people part.
And three, picking up on something both Dr. Holdren said and Ambassador Babbitt said, water problems are solvable. We live in a world of such complexity where so many problems – climate problems, economic problems – seem not just daunting on a national scale for a government like the United States but sort of impossible for us individually to access. Water problems are not just solvable; the people in this room, you all, can have a huge impact on solving them. We should be able to look back in 30 years and see the same kind of progress with access to water and sanitation that we’ve seen on access to cell phones. So I hope you’ll leave here with a sense of the solvability of what we’re talking about.
We’re going to have an interactive moment now. Through the generosity of an organization called ProTexting, we’re going to do a little polling of the audience. You need to take out your cell phone. This is a rare moment in an event like this where we ask you to not put away your cell phone but put it in your lap, and we’re going to educate ourselves a little bit on a couple elements of water by asking some questions. Here’s how this works. The question’s at the top, you can text your answer to 63566. That is a complete cell phone number, believe it or not. 63566 is the place you want to text your answer to. And the answer is W1, W2, W3, W4 for this first question. So you just text the letter and the number of the answer you want.
The question, the first question, is: How much water does it take to produce one hamburger? You guys got the hang of this before I could even explain it. (Laughter.) We’ll give you – does anybody else want to vote? We’ll give you another minute. You can see up there, the highest number, W1, 822 gallons, and they step down to W4, 389 gallons. No matter what, there’s a lot of water in your hamburger. We didn’t sucker anybody with W4, apparently.
The correct answer, in fact, is W2, 634 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger. Thankfully, in the “to go” line, in the drive-through line, they don’t give you the water; they just give you the hamburger. (Laughter.)
Okay. Question two is – now those who are listening closely, the answer to question two was offered in an earlier talk by Dr. Holdren. How much of the water the United States uses every day goes to generating electricity in the country? Again, text your answer to 63566: 6 percent of the water we use, 12 percent of the water we use, 25 percent of the water we use, or 50 percent of the water we use. How much of the water goes just to generating electricity? Okay. Go ahead and vote.
Very close. We did very well on this one. It is, in fact, 50 percent of the water. Half the water used in the country every day is used to generate electricity. In fact, the water that each of you uses at home comes to about 100 gallons a day. The electricity that each of you uses at home individually requires 250 gallons of water a day. The electricity you use at home actually requires more water than the water.
And one last question. This is the big one for the private sector folks in the room. What is the size of the global water market in the world today? How much money ends up spent on water equipment, water services, water efforts in the world today? From A1 to A4, we’re increasing – 150 billion, 300 billion, 500 billion, or a trillion. Go ahead and vote, and let’s see where we come out. Let’s hope we can get one of these right in this auditorium.
63566 – see, somebody’s taking a call. That’s not what we want now. (Laughter.) Okay. The ProTexting system seems to have collapsed under the pressure of the global water market. There it is. Okay. I’m happy to see the optimism. It’s not a trillion yet; it’s $500 billion. We’re – the market is spending literally $10 billion a week. That’s a kind of enormous scale.
Okay, what’s going to happen now is that six companies are going to come to the podium and come to the screen. And in very short order, five minutes each in three bursts of – two bursts of three, they’re going to tell you about some really interesting technology that is available now to help tackle water problems. These six companies actually were selected by an independent jury that reviewed submissions from about 50 companies, and they were chosen to come up here precisely because of the level of innovation they’re bringing to tackling water problems.
The first group of three – first you’ll hear from Daniel Ward of Innovative Water Technologies, who has a combined solar and wind-powered water treatment facility. Then you’ll hear from Michael Robeson with a company called ProCleanse, which has a little self-contained unit that not only purifies the water without the addition of any energy, but also stores the clean water safely. And then you’ll hear from Monroe Weber-Shirk, with an organization, a company called AguaClara that has, actually, a very interesting software program that helps people in the developing world design water treatment plants much more efficiently and inexpensively.
Okay. Gentlemen, it’s yours. (Applause.)
MR. WARD: Before I jump in, I just have to say, on the ProTexting, it said to only vote once, but I’m from Chicago, so I’m not going to say anything else. (Laughter.) I’m just putting that out there. So I tried, I really tried, to just vote once, but it just didn’t work for me.
So – and also, Ambassador, you mentioned – Lady Ambassador, you mentioned the word “together,” and that stuck in my mind because I’ve been in the water platform business for a while, had a lot of different experiences, and it takes “together.” It takes all the water technologies that are out there. I’ve spent a better part of my career traveling the world, and there’s no one solution to the problem out there, so that’s a good word that I pulled from that.
SunSpring is a very innovative company. It’s a company that’s – Innovative Water Technologies – that’s based in a little town in southeastern Colorado, and – Rocky Ford, actually. I’ve never been there, but I hope to go someday. The inventor wanted to be here. He could not be here, but he sends his hello. He invented the product, patented it, manufactured it in a small town outside of Pueblo. So it’s a really unique opportunity for me here to present this opportunity.
So – next slide. So what we believe is we have the right product at the right time. We believe that SunSpring, which is the product, is America’s gift to the world. SunSpring is a high-tech water treatment plant – very sophisticated membrane, seven miles of filter, inside each unit. Each unit purifies up to 5,000 gallons per day of drinking water, and it can run for 10 years without any problems. There’s some back-flushing on the filter, but very low maintenance. SunSpring is providing the cleanest, purest water with the exact same technology that we use in the United States here for our drinking water systems. SunSpring can be private labeled for corporate programs or sponsorships or U.S. State Department, so you can get identify recognition worldwide if you wanted to have that recognition.
I say “drop and go” because it can be set up pretty quickly. The unit weighs about 800 pounds, but once it’s displaced, put near some fresh water, in a couple hours you’re going to have clean drink coming out of that, and you’re not going to be using any power at all. It’s going to run off of solar power, and it’s going to run off the wind to drive it, and it’s going to just keep running for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 10 years, again. So there’s no fuel costs at all.
It’s been in service since 2008, when the founder first placed his first unit. It’s in worldwide programs for energy response, developing countries, government water projects, schools, villages, hospitals, and then currently being used worldwide in many countries, including Haiti. And I’m pulling that word out because that’s where the founder is at. He’s en route there. His passion, when the disaster hit, was there, and he keeps going back trying to help that country. He actually had children die in his arms, and he realized there’s a problem, there’s a need, and he’s out there trying to help that. Otherwise, he’d be here today.
There are some logos of some partners that we used.
Tested – it’s been independently tested and certified, has the WQA gold seal of approval, which meets the U.S. EPA standards. SunSpring has received GE’s Healthymagination validation. And what that is, it’s a partnership with GE, but it’s the only product out of the 42 Healthymagination products that they don’t manufacture. So it’s a pretty big deal for SunSpring to have that. It’s accredited for use in the USA for drinking water systems.
It’s high tech and low maintenance. SunSpring Hybrid is minimal maintenance, as I said. It’s ultra-filtration, meaning it’s going to block out everything – the bacterias and cysts and pathogens and cholera, it’s going to take – block all that stuff out. SunSpring can be used as sales for microbusiness because on each unit has power strips, and those power strips can – you can sell off power to charge up a battery or you could end up selling off water to a community.
Maintenance is about one hour a week. Some minor back-flushing of the system can be easily taught to someone to understand how to do it. And again, it’s suitable for long-term drinking projects up to 10 years. You can replace it in about – the filter shortly, and then you can have it run for another 10 years.
So – SunSpring, we believe that together, when it comes to solving the world’s crisis, the SunSpring Hybrid has a proven, sustainable water purification system. We believe that that could be one of the solutions in this world to try to help the world come up with better alternatives.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. ROBESON: Is this working here?
PARTICIPANT: Yes, it’s on.
MR. ROBESON: Oh, okay. Check. Thank you, Dan. My name is Michael Robeson. I’ve got a – just a little background on me: I’ve got a master’s degree in water resources and hydraulics from Colorado State University. I’ve got about 15 years of experience in the water sector. And I work for ProCleanse Water Filtration. I’m the general manager. And ProCleanse is a subsidiary of a company called Profile Products, and Profile Products is an environmentally focused company, kind of targeting three sectors: water, soil, and vegetation. And Procleanse was formed to tackle the water sector of what we’re looking to focus on. I’m really kind of humbled and pleased to be here in such a great audience of partners and companies and really an impressive group. So, I think I’ll stop there with kind of the introductions portion.
I’ve got – is this working? All right.
So, I think Charles had mentioned a little bit about the water crisis, so I’m going to kind of touch on that as well. The number that was thrown out by Charles is actually higher than the number I thought, approaching maybe two billion people that really don’t have access to clean drinking water. And I think there’s two things you want to focus on there, that billion number and “clean.” From my end and certainly from my perspective of the sector, if we can find a way to get that number down, but the other word that really stands out is we got to make sure that water is clean. So it’s not really just about access. We got to find a way to make sure that water stays clean.
So kind of moving into the next set of photos, basically talking really about the water chain. So taking water from the source to however it gets to somebody’s household is an important part of what needs to be talked about here today. And I think, Charles, you obviously made a big point of it in accessing that water, carrying it on their heads. People travel long distances to get water, or maybe they have some pipe system or some other way of actually getting water, rain collection. There are lots of ways to obtain your water.
But one of the key issues that comes out of this is that by the time it gets to the household, oftentimes it’s just not clean. And so that in itself is really kind of a big issue. And this issue is solvable, as was mentioned. We believe, and I’m fairly certain the sector believes that it’s going to take a suite of solutions, a variety of products, a lot of which are probably represented here in the Exhibit Hall and here today I think are going to be the keys to solving this problem. And we feel strongly that this needs to start at the household level to have really an immediate and sustaining impact, and then almost work backwards towards the infrastructure that’s needed.
So, kind of moving into the reason why we developed this was at the household level. So ProCleanse adapted this technology over the last several years based on user feedback, in addition to trying to meet WHO specifications. We currently meet WHO protected category. We have a simple filter, minimal maintenance, a 10-year life; we are able to deal with bacteria, virus, and SIS; we have no chemicals needed over the lifetime of the unit; we’ve got the ability to flow at eight liters an hour, as was indicated, with no energy; a cost of .001 cent per liter over the lifetime of the unit; we’ve got residual disinfection and built-in safe storage.
So I’ve talked about the problem. I’ve talked about where I think we might want to kind of really put some focus and energy, but the next question is: Okay, well, how are we going to succeed, even – how are we as a company going to succeed?
So I think kind of diving into that, it’s a common theme here. And this U.S. Water Partnership is really the basis for these partnerships. And without collaboration and these partnerships, I’ll come right out and say it, our business with this product is not going to succeed. That’s just the facts, without those partnerships.
And there’s a couple examples. The WHO specification and the meeting of that, none of that would have taken place without partnerships that we developed along the way. Currently, we’re doing work in a number of countries, working with international governments and agencies to try to build those partnerships. We’ve got connections with local and national governments, NGOs, research partners working on field acceptance and use of our product. And again, I just say that partnerships are going to be the key to our business. For more information, we’ve got Procleansefilters.com, and I’ve also got an exhibit here in the booth, so thank you very much.
MR. WEBER-SHIRK: Hi, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thirty-two years ago, I was captured by the need for safe drinking water while working in refugee camps in western Honduras. Since then, safe drinking water has been both my passion and my career.
When I traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras earlier this year, I drank bottled water because I knew that tap water there is sometimes unsafe, even though they have modern drinking water treatment plants. I’m not sure why I’m drinking bottled water here in Washington, DC. I’ve toured dozens of water treatment plants where they’re using advanced water treatment technologies from industrialized countries. The plant operators are making valiant attempts to provide safe water on tap. They struggle as both mechanical and the electronic components fail, and the result is that many of the cities in Latin America, Asia, and Africa don’t have safe water on tap. They have unsafe water on tap.
One possible conclusion is that municipal water treatment doesn’t work in the global South. If we abandon municipal water treatment, then we will have contaminated water in our households. Equipping and training every household on the planet to treat their own water will be a monumental task and will cost far more than municipal water treatment. That said, I want to be clear that point of views is absolutely needed. There are places where it will be needed.
What I’m lobbying for is, where possible, let’s use municipal water treatment. Parents want to be able to give their child a bath without worrying that she will accidentally swallow some contaminated water and get sick. We need to reinvent municipal water treatment so that communities can have safe water on tap. Ten years ago, I was asked to invent water treatment that would work for small communities in Honduras. I realized that water treatment technologies that work for small communities would also work for cities.
I assembled a large team of students and faculty at Cornell University, and we spent the last decade researching, inventing, and designing a whole new set of water treatment technologies. These are high-performing technologies that are made by local labor using local materials that don’t use any electricity, that are designed for ease of operation, they are low cost, and they are open source. We have zero patents – many inventions, zero patents.
Our partner organization in Honduras has already built nine community-owned drinking water treatment plants using the technologies and designs that we created. Two of these plants were funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation, and the Swiss are funding two more plants this year.
We have a proven set of technologies that providing 36,000 people with safe water on tap. Our inventions include gravity-powered chemical dosing, sedimentation tanks that are half the depth, include floc blankets, and produce very clean water; stacked rapid sand filters that are six times more compact than conventional rapid sand filters; hydraulic control systems that are easy to use and super reliable. You can monitor the water quality of our water treatment plants at our website. We are open source and transparent. Our newest technologies meet U.S. EPA drinking water standards.
When I traveled to the small town of Tamara, Honduras, I drink the water from the tap. Tamara has an AguaClara water treatment plant, including the world’s first stacked rapid sand filter. Bottled water sales have plummeted in Tamara, because their tap water is cleaner than bottled water.
Our plants are economical to build and maintain. The design, build, operate, train-transfer costs are less than half of the cost for package plants. Our efficient treatment processes require less coagulant and thus save on chemical costs as well.
There are 60 students at Cornell who are researching, inventing, and designing the next generation of water treatment technologies. AguaClara, LLC is a social enterprise that transfers those technologies from Cornell to regional partners. AguaClara, LLC builds technical capacity in regional partners, so that they can continue to construct plants and provide technical support to the local water boards and to the communities.
We provide safe water for proud communities, clean kitchens, and healthy children. We have designs for a wide range of flow rates from villages to small cities. We are working with partners in Honduras and India to deploy AguaClara technologies. AguaClara has created and proven the next generation of water treatment technologies. AguaClara: safe water, on tap. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. FISHMAN: Extraordinary burst of innovation from those three. I just returned from living in Mexico City for two years. We could have used AguaClara. You could not drink the water in our house. You had to use bottled water, even to wash your strawberries and brush your teeth.
Okay. The next three innovative water solution companies: Mark Owen is first, from Puralytics, a company that makes a little bag with the capacity to take dirty water and, using sunlight, create safe drinking water. Rob Crook, from a company called Floating Island Solutions, which uses bio-mimicry, human beings imitating nature – I guess we are part of nature – but human beings imitating nature to create wetlands, to clean wastewater and storm water. And finally, Hill Kemp from a company called Suns River that has a solar still that can create drinking water from either seawater or wastewater.
Okay, gentlemen. Take it away.
Say your names (inaudible).
MR. OWEN: Yes. My name is Mark Owen. I am the founder and CEO of Puralytics, and I’m really appreciative of the opportunity today to speak about a topic that I have a great passion about, and I know many of you do as well: How do we get clean water to everyone?
Now, the world water problem, as we’ve heard, is a very solvable problem. It’s the most solvable world crisis in the world today, and yet more than almost one billion people have no improved water source; more than two billion people have no access to enough water for sanitation; three million people, mostly children, will die this year from water-borne diseases; and about four billion people actually don’t have water that meets the World Health Organization’s safe water guidelines; and 50 percent of the world’s hospital beds – 50 percent, one half – are filled with people who are sick with water-borne diseases.
The problem isn’t just the water. It’s also, we’ve got to purify it, we’ve got to transport it, we’ve got to store it. But when you look at that, shouldn’t we be sending, instead of pharmaceuticals all around the world, shouldn’t we just send clean glasses of water? When you’re thinking about safe water, it’s interesting to talk about it. The world – or the United Nations has decided that safe water is a basic human right, and they’ve got a millennial goal right now which is aimed at reducing the number of people who have access to water. So the focus of the millennial goal is not safe water; it’s improving the number of people who have access to an improved water source. So that’s something you need to be clear about.
Secondly, when you look at what most aid organizations are doing, they’re primarily focused on providing things that disinfect water, so they’re aimed at the germs that could be in water. And germs will get you sick tomorrow. It’s a very relevant focus. But the other things that are in water can also get you sick, and they can keep affecting you over your entire life – chemicals and other toxins in water. The World Health Organization says that for water to be safe, you have to have access to enough of it, and it has to be both free of germs and free of toxins. But there’s very few organizations that are actually doing any solution that removes the toxins that are in water. So it could be that the solutions that your organization provides actually could be providing water with pesticides, petrochemicals, cleaning solvents, clothing dyes, and all kinds of other organic and inorganic compounds like arsenic and lead and mercury that are not removed by the solution that is being provided.
So how do we get safe water to everyone? What we’ve developed is this Puralytics solar bag, and what this is, if you watch that picture on the right, it’s time-lapse photography, you just scoop water out of any source – it looks like this – scoop the water out of the source, you put it in the sunlight. The sunlight activates this nanotechnology coated mesh inside the bag and causes the chemicals to be attracted to the bag and slowly broken apart by aggressive oxidation reduction reactions that happens from the light-activated nanotechnology. So this can be reused. It cleans all the water. It just gets cleaner by itself. There’s – all of the contaminants are destroyed. They’re not collected in a filter or put in a waste stream. And you can reuse it over and over several times a day, over 500 times.
In a crisis, you find out the value of water real quickly. So in most – in a crisis, people talk about the rule of threes. Responders say that if you have three minutes without air, three days without water, or three weeks without food, you’re in trouble. And what we’ve seen from the most recent crises in the world is usually it’s water that becomes the thing that keeps going for months, for years, after that initial crisis has been addressed. And water is very heavy. We put bottled water, like Mr. Fishman showed us, on helicopters and fly them to disasters. And for one gallon of water that could serve one person for one day, we could’ve put enough solar bags on there for 25 families for an entire year.
We’ve been using the solar bag – it’s been out for two years, and it’s now in 57 countries. We meet the entire U.S. EPA and World Health Organization purified water requirements. It’s been approved by several foreign governments and eight organizations. And this year, we won the International Water Association’s Global Honor Award for our work in Malawi, Africa. This was a deployment in four villages where we deployed the bags in four villages. We tracked them for an entire year, their use, and we found that at the end of the year, 96 percent of the people were still using the solar bags and they were still functional, and they were using more – they were drinking more water; they’d stopped boiling water and using other solutions. So the adoption, the difficult part in this solution, was very high in that situation, and they felt healthier.
Imagine a future where everybody had access to safe water. Imagine where they’re not cutting down the trees to boil the water. They’re not putting new contaminants in the water in order to treat their water. Imagine where everyone has this safe water that you and I enjoy. I think the – since most of the diseases in the world are actually caused by water borne contaminants, the safest, the best pharmaceutical we could ever provide is just a simple clean glass of water. And I think the solutions to solve this most solvable problem are all here today. We could solve this problem if we can imagine it.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. CROOK: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Rob Crook with Floating Island Southeast. And I guess I really had no idea what I was going to say, when I first woke up this morning, to you all. But as I was sitting there washing my face, I realized once again that we are constantly, every day, interacting with water. And it such an intimate element within the world that everybody – everybody – interacts with that it’s just one of those things that you realize it’s so important because it cuts across so many different human endeavors and activities that we all do.
And as was mentioned, we look at this problem of water and contamination a little bit differently, and it’s kind of a little bit more out in nature is where we try to solve some of these problems. Over half of all the streams and rivers, according to the U.S. EPA, in the U.S. are basically degraded. And it’s a huge problem, both internationally – I think about 80 percent of all wastewater in the Caribbean Basin reaches the Caribbean waters untreated. So we’re really seeing a huge, huge decline in the quality of the water in our oceans and also in our streams and rivers.
That’s where we come in with bio-mimicry. And it’s this attempt to take the tools of nature and then apply them to this problem. And so Bruce Kania, who came up with this idea in Montana about 10 years ago, because his – actually, it’s the picture at the lower right-hand corner – he had a Labrador retriever that used to go swimming in that very pond. That pond was receiving tons and tons of just contaminants from basically a confined feed operation, and also from agricultural runoff. The water stank. The dog would go swimming, being a Labrador retriever, and come in the house, and Bruce just kept on saying this just – there has got to be something I’ve got to do to save my house from this stupid dog. And so he came up with the idea of bio-mimicking a wetland. And that’s what we did.
And we basically just came up with this, and we’ve improved on it quite a bit over the years. It’s something that we use in wastewater, storm water, landfill leachate applications, and we’re finding great success with a lot of these applications. And it gets back to what people – I think we’ve all said it – it’s one of the things that is impressed upon me is – and I say this to clients, I say this is not a silver bullet. There are so many things out there, so many tools that we have to use to clean up water, and we have to look at individual sites and then be able to combine all of these technologies into one thing, and be able to come up with a solution for you.
And so we really feel proud that we can take these floating islands and combine them with other technologies. We can combine them across different sectors – the storm water, wastewater, all these landfill leachate systems, and that we can use them in these situations with other people. And it’s also one of the things I’m really grateful for having come here today, because I learned a lot. And I think I’ve learned about who I can network with, and some great ideas are fermenting out of this whole thing today.
This is what we – these are the technical specs. The islands, they’re made out of 100 percent recycled PET plastic. That matrix grows periphyton. The periphyton is the basis for all aquatic ecosystems. That’s what’s sucking up and driving the reduction in nutrients. And so what that does is that is a microbial-dominated ecosystem that can actually clean up the water. The plants are there to provide carbon for the microbes, really, and provide extra surface area as the plant roots grow into the water, as you can see from this diagram.
One of the things that also is important to remember is that in large lakes – we could do this in Lake Amatitlan, Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We can do it – I’ve done it in Lake Naivasha in Kenya. And one of the things we can do is create ecosystems that can actually feed fish, create more fish, and actually be able to provide protein for people who live there. If we do it right, we could also be providing platforms for people to grow food on. We could do this in Lake Victoria in Uganda. I’m convinced of it. They already do it – there’s people who’ve been doing it in Burma now for a few hundred years. It’s an exciting application, and it’s just something that we’re bio-mimicking. We’re kind of using this technology.
So look us up. Get in touch with us. A lot of you have solutions that I think are really useful for everybody, and I think we can all work together and solve this problem. I’m pretty optimistic about it. And I think there’s a lot of energy here today to achieve the goals.
So that’s it. (Applause.)
MR. KEMP: Hello. I’m Hill Kemp, the founder of Suns River, batting cleanup. And our technology – Director Holdren mentioned his three points – is a slam-dunk for all three of those points. And frankly, our technology – clicker? Oh, there. Sorry.
Our technology is – was discovered by Aristotle in 350 BCE, and he said it’s the pits, it’s a lousy way to produce water. And it’s had a – so I’m working something with a 2,300-year-old bad reputation. We dissected that technology into its basic elements, redesigned the several choke points that are in it, and we have a 99 percent solar energy-driven solar still. Aristotle’s would produce about one or two liters per square meter per day. Ours produces 12 liters per square meter per day.
Easy to operate. There are no internal moving parts. The most complex component is a low-pressure water pump. We can account for 80 percent of the incoming solar energy expressed as a dislook. Your average PV cell gets about 15 percent of the solar energy. It’s scalable from one – a family. A two-meter square unit will serve a family, or you can line them up in the desert and make water for an entire city. The water we produce is most mineral and bacteria free. You have to add minerals to make it taste like the water you’re expecting.
And our costs are competitive with reverse osmosis. That five-fold improvement in productivity is what makes the solar still. And actually, we’re taking the solar still off the technology junk pile, bringing it into competition.
Proven and certified technology. Our technology is patented in all of the three major markets that are participants in a patent cooperation treaty. Our operation – we’ve operated at the Bureau of Reclamation’s site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. They, too, were skeptical, sent their engineers down and certified that the process does what we say. And we’re now building commercial units and operating them in Alamogordo, New Mexico. And we feed the full range of contaminated water from saline water – sea water – and the like.
Market and applications. Our process excels in desert and semi-desert climates. We – I have a booth – someone mentioned about food. We have a booth – number 10 over in the display area. And we actually have a pergola design with solar – our solar units as the roof, and you can grow food crops in the desert under that because they’re in the shade. Deserts are as short of shade as they are short of water.
Again, a two-square meter unit will feed a family of four for their essential drinking needs – no bacteria, no minerals. The upper capacity – how much idle desert do you have, and how much water do you want? And the equipment is designed for mass production and shipping around in those intermodal containers.
The picture on the left is a photograph of our first commercial unit in Alamogordo. It’s 2.3 meters by 2.8 meters by 1 meter. That unit combines both absorption, evaporation, and condensing in one piece of equipment.
Now, the picture of the young lady on the right was taken by the government of Gujarat in India. The reason why I keep doing this and trying to find – well, in doing this is she – her water has too much fluoride in it. And her bone structure, as she grows, is compromised, and so she’s disfigured by the water she drinks. That keeps me going every day on this. Again, booth number 10.
Now, round four, investment opportunities. I wasn’t quite sure what the scope was here, but we have – our process is patented in the U.S. – two U.S. patents, one Australian patent, one patent pending in India. I own 92 percent of it, and the lady from the SBA told me that I’m humming on F3 capital – friends, fools, and family. (Laughter.) We have a business plan that offers a three- to five-year exit for initial investors, and away they go. (Laughter.) And we have a contract for our first commercial sale.
Thank you very much. And thanks to the State Department and the U.S. Water Partnership for putting this on. (Applause.)
MR. FISHMAN: Okay. Well, that’s just a little taste of why I’m optimistic and why I think we should be optimistic about tackling the problems in front of us. It is not often that you hear Aristotle invoked at an afternoon conference on water, especially in the negative. (Laughter.) Okay. There’s an Aristotle failure: water.
It’s my pleasure to hand off the stage to Chris Holmes, who is the global water coordinator for USAID. He’s the first person at USAID to have that job, U.S. – global water coordinator, and he’s sort of bringing focus and energy and determination to AID’s water efforts. And I was talking to him just before we got started today, and he’s – it sounds to me like has spent the last six months rivaling Secretary Kerry for traveling the world, looking at water problems and trying to solve them.
Chris Holmes, thank you. (Applause.)
MR. HOLMES: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here. Charles, you’ve done a great job keeping us going today, and I loved your book, so I wanted to let you know that.
So I would like to thank the Department of State and the U.S. Water Partnership for arranging for this. It’s a tremendous event, and I was sitting there thinking to myself, gosh, I sure hope this is being taped. And then I turned around and saw the cameras. Because there’s so much knowledge here that’s so important to convey and share elsewhere.
I particularly wanted to thank Assistant Secretary Jones for everything she’s done to put this together, as well as Ambassador Babbitt. I’ve been a public servant for more than a quarter of a century, and you don’t often have a chance to work with people of their quality, and it’s really been a great pleasure.
I first began in this field in 1974, and my first encounter with water borne disease was in Bangladesh in what was called a gruel kitchen in Dhaka, where people were taken to die. And they were taken to die for a combination of diseases, many of which were derivative to water borne disease. And I remember, as a young man, looking at that and thinking to myself, this does not have to be this way. It does not have to be this way. And what’s happening today is not only are we reaffirming that it does not have to be this way; we’re going through the wide range of solutions that will alleviate and prevent this kind of suffering and death in the future. And this has been extraordinarily meaningful to all of us because of this.
So this is a significant day for us at AID. It marks delivering on commitments. It was in September of almost a year ago when the Swedish International Development Agency and USAID launched in Stockholm the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge. And that grand challenge was committed to select innovative technologies to help make a major difference in supplying water for food production in the developing world. And since then, we’ve brought into this partnership the Government of the Netherlands, and we’re really very, very happy that they would join in because of their tremendous leadership and generosity in the overall field of water. And we now have an overall commitment of $32 million to support the challenge in the development and application of critical technologies.
Today – this afternoon, in fact – we are posting on a website some 83 semifinalists that derived from some 520 individuals and organizations that submitted concept notes in response to this call. These individuals and organizations came from 90 countries. And what I think is extremely significant is that 70 percent of those countries are from the developing world. And we posted these individuals and organizations on our website, which is www.securingwaterforfood.org. And Hattie, you’re right, there should be a better name than that. (Laughter.) It’s just too much to say at one time.
So we’re thrilled about it. And we’ve taken these prospective winners, our – just across the board in wonderful different ways to solve problems. And I think that they’re most certainly in keeping with what the six individuals who spoke before me regarding their great achievements already in the water sector. And I just wanted to praise them for what they’ve done and will do.
But innovation never ends, and we are also proud today to be launching a new prize in water, which is the Brackish Water Desalinization Prize. And this afternoon, we’ll be going out on a website, which is www.thedesalprize.org, and we’re seeking your input into the nature of this prize before we go out on a request for proposal. And this is a procurement process called an RFI, request of interest.
We are tackling probably one of the most complex problems one can think of. As Secretary – Director Holdren, rather, explained earlier, dealing with desalinization means you’re dealing with energy, and the challenge of being able to come up with an economic, scalable way in which to treat brackish water is indeed one of the world’s great challenges. And as Charles mentioned, yes, I’ve been on the road a lot. And wherever I go, we see these issues of how do you basically treat, desal water. In the last, I guess, four months, I’ve been in Indonesia and Kenya and Ethiopia, Haiti, and elsewhere, and it just keeps arising again and again. So we’re very optimistic that something great is going to come from this.
And in terms of innovation, yes, technology is critical, but it all comes down to individuals and what they can achieve. And there are two individuals who are going to share with us some of their work, and I’m proud to introduce them. The first is John Feighery, who is with mWater. mWater has been the recipient of a USAID Development Innovation Ventures Award, and his technology is the process of developing and applying, particularly in Tanzania, that deals with the utilization of mobile phone technology to improve our detection of pathogens in water and communicating what has been found.
And he will be followed by Alix Zwane, who’s from Evidence Action. And her technology essentially changes the name of the game on how we treat water. She is engaged in developing and applying chlorinator technologies, particularly in Africa. I guess six weeks ago, I was in a remote part of Kenya at a spring. And there at the spring, there was a blue box on a pole, and that pole was full of chlorine. And the chlorine could be basically released into a jerry can on a calibrated fashion so that when people take their water out of a spring, put the chlorine into the jerry can, recontaminate it accidentally, over the next 72 hours it remains clean and safe, which is quite an achievement.
So it’s my pleasure to introduce John and to thank all of you for being here for this exceptional event. John. (Applause.)
MR. FEIGHERY: Thank you so much, Mr. Holmes. Ready to go?
mWater is a nonprofit technology startup with a vision of reducing diarrheal disease through data. Our first and biggest investor was USAID, and so we’re very grateful to be here today to share this with you.
Now, diarrheal disease is still the second-largest killer of children under 5 today. And it’s strongly associated with the top cause of death in children today, which is lung infection. Many more will become stunted for life due to the repeated bouts of diarrhea they suffer in their childhood, and most of these tragedies are entirely preventable. But in data-poor regions, it’s difficult to know the problem – what the problems are, and even harder to implement effective solutions. Lots of data are already being collected by every government and organization. It just isn’t always available to inform decisions.
We like to say that paper is where data goes to die. Paper-based data gets stuck by – on someone’s desk or filed away for a future that never comes. We need to liberate the data from its paper prison to make faster progress on diarrheal disease. We find that most wash* data never escapes from this world of paper. But when it does, too often it’s found in a proprietary format that only highly paid consultants can understand or work with. Or worse, it’s frozen in time with no mechanism for updating it. But mobile phone and internet technology make it possible to overcome these obstacles. Mobile network access expanded faster than any utility in history, and now more people have access to a mobile phone than they do to clean water and sanitation. We view this as a huge opportunity, because moving to mobile means we can get data in real time to people who need it. And when something doesn’t work, we can respond in real time. We know in hours or days, rather than months later in the annual report at the end of the year.
Our USAID-funded demonstration project in Mwanza, Tanzania is a partnership with local health officers and the water utility. Together, we’re learning how to use mobile technology to address problems of water contamination and water scarcity in the second-largest city in Tanzania. Right now, today, 25 water utility workers and environmental health officers are mapping contaminated water sources in Mwanza. This data is instantly shared with our water quality database and shared on an app.
The mWater app itself integrates with several low-cost water quality test kits. We do rigorous testing to evaluate the performance of these methods in the field, and the on-board camera helps to analyze the test results, which are then shared instantly and mapped to the GPS location from the phone. We’re also working with partners at the regional water quality lab in Mwanza to make it easier to purchase water test supplies in Tanzania. Solving these critical supply chain issues are very important to scaling up the approach, and it’s one of our biggest challenges to date.
So what are the keys to making it easier to share and collect data? Well, we think it comes down to three things: Creating world class technology, working in true partnership with clients and with the communities where we serve, and finally, a commitment to open-source software development so what we build is shared with everyone in the community. The mWater app can map and update sites such as water sources with new data. It also works on smartphones and computers and automatically synchronizes with our server whenever an Internet connection is available. It also works offline for places with poor data connectivity.
Our business model is disrupting the traditional aid model that fostered dependence on high-priced consultants. We work directly with the clients as investors. They pay for special features, support, training, and we’re able to provide a platform for free, encouraging more investors to adopt it.
Our model is now attracting new partners. We are currently developing a major new platform in partnership with water.org. Soon, anyone will be able to create and edit and deploy their own mobile surveys using a beautiful, simple, and powerful web interface. Thanks to investors like USAID, we can offer this cutting-edge, open-source technology to cash-strapped local governments and NGOs at a price they can actually afford – for free. And you don’t need a relationship with us to start using mWater today. You can just download the app from the Google Play store or visit our website and click “use the app.”
The open-source software movement is replacing the old, competitive paradigm with collaboration – collaboration around a shared vision to reduce diarrheal disease. In the open-source model, all of our partners benefit when one of them makes a contribution. We want to use data to stop diarrheal disease within our lifetime. I hope you’ll join us. You can learn more about mWater at our website, www.mwater.co, and I hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for your time today. (Applause.)
MS. ZWANE: Hello. My name is Alix Zwane, and I’m the CEO of a nonprofit called Evidence Action that scales up evidence-based programs in global development to reach tens of millions of people. I’m going to talk today about our safe water program.
This is a chlorine dispenser. As Chris mentioned, he had the opportunity to come and see these in action in Kenya. Working with local communities and with partners, we use this technology as the centerpiece of a sustainable safe water service delivery program. Right now, we serve about 1.5 million people. By the end of this year, we’ll be serving 4 million people. And with the support of DIV, Development Innovation Ventures at USAID, and other partners, we are working on a business plan that will have us serve 25 million people by 2018, and we will be financially self-sustainable at that point in time.
The story of the development of the dispenser and this unique business model is a story of evaluation for the sake of innovation, not for accountability, and of stubborn shoulder to iterate to really seek scale. The tradeoff and handoff between research and social entrepreneurship is never a simple and straightforward task, but getting good at passing that baton is exactly what we’re going to have to be good at – meaning us here in this room – if we are really going to reach the kind of goals that everybody before me has talked about in the rural water sector and that we’re reflecting on on World Water Day.
This is WaterGuard. That’s the brand name under which dilute chlorine is marketed in Kenya and in other places by the NGO Population Services International. Adding a few drops of WaterGuard to your water is a really good idea in a lot, a lot of places. When you collect water from a well or from a standpipe, that water may have bacteria and viruses in it, or that water could be clean at that time of collection, but by the time you’ve handled it and you’ve taken it home and you’ve stored it in your house for a day or two, it’s quite likely that it could get contaminated. A few drops of chlorine, of WaterGuard, can kill those pathogens and can provide residual ongoing protection.
In our water in DC, now, there’s chlorine in it for precisely that reason. And chlorine can save lives. That’s not an exaggeration. A hundred years ago when we introduced basic water treatment technology in cities in the United States, child mortality plunged. Epidemiologists estimate even today that simple treatment with things like chlorine in developing countries can reduce diarrhea by something like 40 percent.
The problem is that way too few people actually use WaterGuard. When researchers first took on the challenge of trying to drive up the use of chlorine in western Kenya, which was in about 2006, usage rates were at about 7 to 10 percent. A lot of people knew what WaterGuard was, and not quite as many but still a lot of people knew about the relationship between dirty water and diarrheal disease; it’s just that WaterGuard wasn’t the right technology for people to use. And why is that? Well, if you think about it, there’s actually an awful lot of steps between that picture of that WaterGuard and actually having some chlorine in your drinking water. That path involves going to the market, going to the shop to buy it, remembering to buy it once you’re in town, spending some money on it, which means you don’t have money for something else; knowing how to use the product and having confidence in doing so; remembering to do it and remembering to do it every single day, and then going through that cycle over and over. What did we have to do to have chlorine in our drinking water today? Absolutely nothing.
So what these researchers did was they said let’s systematically break his gap. What are the constraints to using WaterGuard? Let’s remove them and see what power comes from that. And so they did a large randomized trial in which people were divided randomly into five different groups. In the first group, people were given coupons for WaterGuard, so you remove the price barrier to use of the product. In the second group, people were brought the WaterGuard at home to them in their house – no price barrier, no time cost. In the third group, you got those two things plus you got some marketing messages to reduce the cognitive burden associated with remembering to use the product. And in the fourth group, a chlorine dispenser was placed at the water source, so that as close as possible the two products, water and chlorine, were bundled together.
Well, at an 18-week follow-up, in the dispensers group take-up of chlorine was nearly five times as high as it was in a control group, people who hadn’t gotten any of the intervention. And most interestingly and compellingly – and here’s where the handoff from research to social entrepreneurship comes in – that take-up rate persisted over time for two years even after the novelty of the product had worn off. And that’s where the social entrepreneurs became really interested in developing a model to see if – could you scale this up? Could you make a sustainable, low-cost technology? Could we figure out a way to bring chlorine around so that you had a sustainable, ongoing service? Could we figure out a way to recover costs without having to charge end users?
And that’s the process that we’ve been engaged in with the support of DIV for the past couple of years. And the fact that we’ve gotten to the scale that we’re at now is something we’re tremendously proud of as an example of a fusion of design, evaluation, entrepreneurship, and innovation that we hope can be part of a much larger ecosystem of this kind of solutions in the rural water sector going forward.
Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES: Well, everyone, I think when we started this session today I said something like the real stars of today would be the new technologies and the creative ideas that we heard. And I hope you agree with me that we have certainly – they have certainly been the stars today. So let’s give them all another round of applause. (Applause.)
As already been stated, there’s also another company that donated their polling technology services who I want to recognize, and they were called out: ProTexting.com. They provided that technology that helped you answer the questions, and I think that’s a pretty amazing technology too that lets us get some instant feedback and follow through on a really good discussion as to what are the dimensions of a problem.
This is the closing of our World Water Day Event officially in this room as an audience, but please don’t leave the building quickly because there are 20 other water tech entrepreneurs who are waiting to show off their ingenuous devices and creations over in the Exhibit Hall. There are also eight government agencies out there, and let me tell you the alphabet soup that they are: EPA, SBA, USAID, MCC, OPIC, Ex-Im, USTDA, and State. And there will be a quiz about what those acronyms all mean, but I hope in this audience you’ll understand the range from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Trade and Development Agency to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and others.
I think that it’s very important that we recognize the breadth of the discussion we heard today. We talked about technology from Aristotle to nanotechnology, and water from in the glass to what the role is of a wetland and ecosystem and protecting an ecosystem. I think what it also shows is how much we have to work together. And I also am quite happy to see such a technical discussion in the Department of State because I’m a techie to start with. And I think this really shows that there are solutions to these problems, this very solvable problem, if we all work together and really push the innovation and really push the solutions from the existing ones to brand new ones.
So I thank you very much and I appreciate your coming to commemorate World Water Day with us here today. Please enjoy the exhibits. Thank you.