When water is scarce, supply can be strengthened through water storage tanks and other solutions. Or we can try to reduce demand. To support these measures, proven and new technologies are helping us identify water sources and leaks, save water for when it is needed the most, and make sure it is used as efficiently as possible.

Innovation examples

  • Underground transfer of floods for irrigation (UTFI) is a form of MAR common around the Ganges River basin in India Underground transfer of floods for irrigation (UTFI) is a form of MAR common around the Ganges River basin in India

    Managed aquifer recharge

    Water is becoming increasingly scarce. Attention is turning to saving, storing and treating floodwater for a variety of applications. Managed … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Innovation examples

    Managed aquifer recharge

    Underground transfer of floods for irrigation (UTFI) is a form of MAR common around the Ganges River basin in India
    Photo: © Naireeta Services

    Water is becoming increasingly scarce. Attention is turning to saving, storing and treating floodwater for a variety of applications. Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is a technique for doing just that. Put simply, MAR captures water and injects it underground. It taps sources such as rainwater, stormwater and floodwater to replenish depleted groundwater aquifers. Methods for implementing MAR incorporate the use of wells, boreholes, riverbank filtration and rainwater harvesting. Flood-MAR can range from the small-scale diversion of floodwater through existing sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) to the creation of large-scale water retention areas and flood management infrastructure.[1] Underground transfer of floods for irrigation (UTFI) is a form of MAR common around the Ganges River basin in India. UTFI uses wells to recharge groundwater basins with monsoonal runoff that could otherwise pose a potential flood risk downstream.[2] Establishing UTFI wells has now become a local government priority in parts of India, with 50 new sites proposed for Rampur district alone. Meanwhile, on a local scale, farmers in India employ techniques such as Holiya to control localized flooding on their plots of land. This technique directs excess water into underground concrete pits through simple perforated pipes that can later be recovered for irrigation when required.[3]

  • Closing or opening the valve Closing or opening the valve

    Water pressure management in South Africa

    A number of townships in the Emfuleni region in South Africa have achieved significant water savings. They have done so by incorporating … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Innovation examples

    Water pressure management in South Africa

    Closing or opening the valve
    Getty Images /© bagi1998

    A number of townships in the Emfuleni region in South Africa have achieved significant water savings. They have done so by incorporating innovative pressure management technologies into their water supply systems. High pressure in the water network had been identified as a key cause of damaged pipes and fixtures (combined with general deterioration due to lack of maintenance). This had led to approximately 80 percent of water supplied to the area being wasted. The pressure management system lowers the water pressure in the supply system during off-peak periods. At night, when demand is lowest, it further reduces the pressure. Controlling water pressure in the distribution network avoids damage. It has saved annually approximately 10 million m3 of water. This represents a 25 per cent reduction in the amount required from the water supplier, Rand Water. It took around nine months to install the advanced pressure management system in 2005. It is now among the largest single water pressure management installations in the world.[1] [2]

  • tylish jeans pants in a clothing store on the stands showcase with labels for the inscription tylish jeans pants in a clothing store on the stands showcase with labels for the inscription

    Reducing water usage in the fashion industry

    The fashion industry uses a significant amount of freshwater. This is mainly due to high water demand from cotton. In addition, textile … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Innovation examples

    Reducing water usage in the fashion industry

    tylish jeans pants in a clothing store on the stands showcase with labels for the inscription
    Getty Images /©Yuriy Kovtun

    The fashion industry uses a significant amount of freshwater. This is mainly due to high water demand from cotton. In addition, textile processing is a major source of water pollution, which further limits access to potable water for the rest of the world. But there are ways to save water. The Saitex denim factory in Viet Nam claims to recycle 98 percent of water through a closed-loop system and efficient jet washing machines. A five-step filtration process, including reverse osmosis, bacteria nanofiltration and evaporation separates toxic contaminants from used water which is recycled back into the manufacturing process. Also, jeans made from the denim are air dried to save energy. Compared to traditional denim production, which uses approximately 1,500 liters of water in a standard process, Saitex’s water use is a modest 0.4 liters after recycling.[1]

Proven technologies  

  • terracing farmland view of Nglanggeran, Gunungkidul terracing farmland view of Nglanggeran, Gunungkidul

    Micro-catchments for water harvesting

    Micro-catchments such as bunds and ridges on farms help support water storage in the root zone of soil. They are a low-cost and easily … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Proven technologies

    Micro-catchments for water harvesting

    United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
    terracing farmland view of Nglanggeran, Gunungkidul
    Getty Images /© by Alfian Widiantono

    Micro-catchments such as bunds and ridges on farms help support water storage in the root zone of soil. They are a low-cost and easily implemented technique to adapt to water scarcity and enhance crop fruit tree yield and pasture shrubs. Although not itself a technology, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has developed a manual on micro-catchments for trainers and extension workers in the Arab region. It contains information, practical guidelines and examples that enable the technique appropriate for a particular site and crop to be selected and adopted.

    • Contracting type: Locally available materials
    • Technology level: Low
    • Country of origin: N/A
    • Availability: MENA region
  • large-scale underground storage of harvested rainwater large-scale underground storage of harvested rainwater

    Rainwater harvesting and underground storage

    Totetsu offers large-scale storage of harvested rainwater. Solutions include storage underground, aboveground and combinations. The system first … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Proven technologies

    Rainwater harvesting and underground storage

    Totetsu Mfg. Co. Ltd
    large-scale underground storage of harvested rainwater
    Photo: © Totetsu Mfg. Co. Ltd.

    Totetsu offers large-scale storage of harvested rainwater. Solutions include storage underground, aboveground and combinations. The system first purifies the water, removing over 95 percent of the sand and dust originally mixed in with the rainwater. Clean water is then stored in a tank for daily use, such as in agriculture. Additional sterilization and filtration stages can be added (not provided by company) in order to turn it into drinking water. The system uses a flexible structure with modules, which can be built, expanded and adapted to fit the environment. It can sustain heavy vehicle loads and is earthquake-resistant. Replacing some of the traditional concrete-made structures with PVC reduces construction time and cost. Storage tanks can hold up to 50,000 m3 of water.[1]

    • Contracting type: For sale and license
    • Technology level: Medium
    • Country of origin: Japan
    • Availability: Worldwide
  • Pipelines on roof top of urban factory Pipelines on roof top of urban factory

    Smart water networks

    WaterWiSe is a wireless sensor network for online urban water distribution monitoring. It was developed by researchers at the Center for … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Proven technologies

    Smart water networks

    Center for Environmental Sensing and Modelling (CENSAM)
    Pipelines on roof top of urban factory
    Getty Images Plus /©R9_RoNaLdO

    WaterWiSe is a wireless sensor network for online urban water distribution monitoring. It was developed by researchers at the Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling (CENSAM) in Singapore. WaterWiSe integrates hardware and software to monitor hydraulic and quality indicators such as conductivity, dissolved organic matter, flow rate and pressure. The system uses sensors to detect leaks and predict pipe damage. Alerts and real-time notifications are made through a cloud-based infrastructure.[1] The technology was implemented by water analytics firm Visenti Pte Ltd, later acquired by Xylem.

    • Contracting type: Service/Collaboration
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: Singapore
    • Availability: Singapore
  • Working day on a hydroelectric power plant. Checking the condition of the power equipment, and analysing the data and the results of measurements with a mobile app. Working day on a hydroelectric power plant. Checking the condition of the power equipment, and analysing the data and the results of measurements with a mobile app.

    Decision support system for water management

    Decision Support Systems (DSS) is an integrated management tool. It allows a better understanding of the status of water resources and their … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Proven technologies

    Decision support system for water management

    BIOFOS
    Working day on a hydroelectric power plant. Checking the condition of the power equipment, and analysing the data and the results of measurements with a mobile app.
    Getty Images Plus /© Daniel Balakov

    Decision Support Systems (DSS) is an integrated management tool. It allows a better understanding of the status of water resources and their users within a system. This can support the planning of appropriate adaptation interventions and their impact on water systems.[1] BIOFOS manages the wastewater treatment plant in the city of Copenhagen. It is presently being integrated into a Decision Support System to optimize treatment capacities so they can better handle stormwater. The system offers a fully interoperable platform for a wastewater treatment plant and sewers. It is based on a series of level and flow sensors within a sewer network, as well as water data and flow forecasts. Such real-time control can reduce the flooding impacts and improve treatment capacity, for example by adapting treatment schemes to wet or dry weather conditions.

    • Contracting type: Service
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: Denmark
    • Availability: Denmark
  • humidity monitoring linear vector icon humidity monitoring linear vector icon

    Real-time water monitoring

    SmartHydro is a company that provides water technology solutions for the efficient management of groundwater, surface or industrial waters. Smart … Read more

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    Real-time water monitoring

    SmartHydro
    humidity monitoring linear vector icon
    Getty Images Plus /©Aliaksei Brouka

    SmartHydro is a company that provides water technology solutions for the efficient management of groundwater, surface or industrial waters. Smart sensors send information to a web platform that supports data monitoring online. It generates analysis on daily up to annual basis. Alerts are sent via text message to warn of any sudden changes to a monitored parameter.

    • Contracting type: Service
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: Chile
    • Availability: Chile

Frontier technologies  

  • Close up on a flood caused by a frozen underground waterpipe in extreme cold day Close up on a flood caused by a frozen underground waterpipe in extreme cold day

    Satellite-based leak detection systems

    Satellite imagery overlaid on geographical information systems is a novel and cost-effective approach to leak detection. Suez and partner Utilis … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Frontier technologies

    Satellite-based leak detection systems

    Suez
    Close up on a flood caused by a frozen underground waterpipe in extreme cold day
    Getty Images Plus /© matsou

    Satellite imagery overlaid on geographical information systems is a novel and cost-effective approach to leak detection. Suez and partner Utilis use imagery from satellite-mounted sensors. To this they apply radiometric correction (a preprocessing technique to remove noise, defective lines and so on) and filtering before running a patented algorithm that locates leaks by detecting treated water in the ground. The algorithm assesses pipe deficiencies by attributing a score to pipe segments showing leaks, as well as leak-location clusters detected in one or more images. Data is then combined with GIS software to produce a single output where the pipes are scored on a 1–5 scale (where 5 indicates high levels of deficiency). A GIS-report and leak report are then shared with the user via a desktop or mobile application. Compared to traditional methods, large areas of land and pipework can be covered using fewer resources. Each satellite image is capable of covering a 3,500 km2 area of land.

    • Contracting type: Service/collaboration
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: France
    • Availability: United Kingdom
  • Drops of water, selective focus Drops of water, selective focus

    Water harvesting from air

    Watergen provides various atmospheric water generators that produce drinking water from air. A certain percentage of humidity is required … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Frontier technologies

    Water harvesting from air

    Watergen
    Drops of water, selective focus
    Getty Images Plus /©ZenShui/Odilon Dimier

    Watergen provides various atmospheric water generators that produce drinking water from air. A certain percentage of humidity is required (starting at 20 percent). Humid air is first filtered to remove dust and dirt particles. It is then led into a heat exchanger where it condenses into water. Once the water has been purified, minerals such as calcium and magnesium are added. Harmful microorganisms and particles are broken down and killed by UV light, before the water is finally stored in a built-in reservoir. The water continues to be circulated through the UV lamp to keep it fresh. As drinking water is produced at source, water transportation is reduced. This is particularly suitable for hospitals, construction sites, small villages, first responders and other locations requiring a water source off the water-network. This type of generator could also supply temporary drinking water for people displaced during floods.

    • Contracting type: For sale
    • Technology level: Medium
    • Country of origin: Israel
    • Availability: Worldwide
  • greenhouses in arid environments using seawater as input water greenhouses in arid environments using seawater as input water

    Seawater greenhouse

    Seawater Greenhouse specializes in the development and construction of greenhouses in arid environments using seawater as input water. Pumped … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Frontier technologies

    Seawater greenhouse

    Seawater Greenhouse
    greenhouses in arid environments using seawater as input water
    Photo: © Seawater Greenhouse

    Seawater Greenhouse specializes in the development and construction of greenhouses in arid environments using seawater as input water. Pumped seawater is used to humidify and cool the interior of the greenhouse, thereby saving significant amounts of freshwater. The water is further recycled for use in agriculture through evaporation and distillation. Modelling software simulates the growing environment to optimize the cooling effect. Most projects have been implemented in high-income countries. However, a recent collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Aston University[2] has resulted in a cheaper facility being built in Somaliland at a tenth of the cost.

    • Contracting type: Service
    • Technology level: Medium
    • Country of origin: United Kingdom
    • Availability: Worldwide
  • Wiederverwendung oder Rückgewinnung von Wasser. Idee der Umweltsanierung. Abwasseraufbereitung. Vektorillustration, flach, ClipArt. Wiederverwendung oder Rückgewinnung von Wasser. Idee der Umweltsanierung. Abwasseraufbereitung. Vektorillustration, flach, ClipArt.

    Circular shower system

    Inspired by NASA space technology, Orbital Showers is a closed-loop shower system. The system saves up to 90 percent on water and 80 percent on … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Frontier technologies

    Circular shower system

    Orbital Systems
    Wiederverwendung oder Rückgewinnung von Wasser. Idee der Umweltsanierung. Abwasseraufbereitung. Vektorillustration, flach, ClipArt.
    Getty Images Plus /©Tasha Vector

    Inspired by NASA space technology, Orbital Showers is a closed-loop shower system. The system saves up to 90 percent on water and 80 percent on energy compared to regular showers by purifying and recirculating the water used. A sensor measures the quality of drainage water every 20 seconds. Water of recyclable quality is led through a micro-filter to separate out larger particles, and then through a nanofilter for smaller particles. UV light is then applied to destroy harmful bacteria. Once the water has been passed through a final-stage internal heater, it is ready for reuse. The system is connected to an app that shows household water savings.

    • Contracting type: For sale
    • Technology level: Medium
    • Country of origin: Sweden
    • Availability: Worldwide

Horizon technologies  

  • Tilt shot of Two steaming cooling towers against blue sky. Exposure with extreme wide-angle lens with tilt perspective. Tilt shot of Two steaming cooling towers against blue sky. Exposure with extreme wide-angle lens with tilt perspective.

    Water conservation at power plants

    The electricity sector withdraws large amounts of water for cooling and other purposes. Significant water savings are possible through measures … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Horizon technologies

    Water conservation at power plants

    Infinite Cooling
    Tilt shot of Two steaming cooling towers against blue sky. Exposure with extreme wide-angle lens with tilt perspective.
    Getty Images Plus /© RelaxFoto.de

    The electricity sector withdraws large amounts of water for cooling and other purposes. Significant water savings are possible through measures such as water reclamation, closed-loop water systems or dry cooling for turbines. At power plants, where cooling towers are typically used, evaporated water is lost into the atmosphere. Infinite Cooling is a company aiming to reduce water consumption in evaporative cooling tower systems. It uses charging electrodes at the outlet of the cooling towers that generate ions and charge the water in the plume. A specially designed collector mesh placed on top of the cooling tower gathers the water droplets. They then condense and are collected with an electric field. The collected water leads to a reservoir and is ready for reuse. The solution saves more than 20 percent of water and can be retrofitted onto any cooling tower.

    • Contracting type: For sale
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: United States
    • Availability: Worldwide
  • a device that extracts moisture from very dry air to produce water. a device that extracts moisture from very dry air to produce water.

    Desert water harvesting

    Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a device that extracts moisture from very dry air to produce water. The … Read more

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    4. Water and coastal regions / Water efficiency and conservation / Horizon technologies

    Desert water harvesting

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    a device that extracts moisture from very dry air to produce water.
    Photo: © MIT Device Research Lab

    Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a device that extracts moisture from very dry air to produce water. The device, which would be suitable for desert environments, is powered by sunlight. It uses a novel material called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that pulls water into its many pores. Several liters of water a day can be captured by each kilogram of material (Oksen and Favre, 2020). Initial tests produced only a few milliliters of water. But researchers are aiming to scale the idea.

    • Contracting type: Research collaboration
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: United States
    • Availability: N/A
  • Abstract vortex particles background. Dynamic green wave moving in explosion. Wormhole shimmering star dust. 3d rendering. Abstract vortex particles background. Dynamic green wave moving in explosion. Wormhole shimmering star dust. 3d rendering.

    Collective water data record keeping using blockchain

    Blockchain may play a role in improving water-trading systems by connecting an unspent surplus of water with consumers who need it. Blockchain … Read more

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    Collective water data record keeping using blockchain

    Water Ledger
    Abstract vortex particles background. Dynamic green wave moving in explosion. Wormhole shimmering star dust. 3d rendering.
    Getty Images Plus /©Mykola Lishchyshyn

    Blockchain may play a role in improving water-trading systems by connecting an unspent surplus of water with consumers who need it. Blockchain can also improve water management, for example by initiating water right transfers based on reservoir water levels. By using decentralized digital ledger technology, blockchain can track ownership and enable fast and secure water rights transactions. Such a peer-to-peer system reduces the risk of fraud or data mismanagement. Blockchain also helps bypass a central authority and eliminates the need for intermediary banks, thus reducing transaction costs. Water Ledger is a collaboration between companies Civic Ledger, WETx and Aqaix. It aims to deploy a blockchain-based system, mainly built on the Ethereum network, to manage smart contracts and the efficient distribution and trading of water rights.

    • Contracting type: Research collaboration
    • Technology level: High
    • Country of origin: United States
    • Availability: N/A

Freshwater on the decline

The projected impacts of climate change on groundwater levels are uncertain. But ever-increasing water demand, partly driven by climate change, has already lowered groundwater tables in many parts of the world. Combined with rising sea-levels, … Read more

Freshwater on the decline

The projected impacts of climate change on groundwater levels are uncertain. But ever-increasing water demand, partly driven by climate change, has already lowered groundwater tables in many parts of the world. Combined with rising sea-levels, this has caused more saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers which degrades water quality.[45] Many regions, particularly dry subtropical ones, now expect a significant reduction in both surface water and groundwater resources.[46] Cities such as Amman, Melbourne and Cape Town could see declines of between 30 and 49 percent.[47] In 2015–18, Cape Town was close to running out of water, with large socioeconomic consequences and job losses in the agricultural sector.[48] Read less

Reservoirs that help save water

Groundwater monitoring is challenging. But seasonal forecasting, hydrological modelling, geophysical surveys and remote sensing technologies are being used to assess current and future availability of surface and groundwater. Complex pipeline … Read more

Reservoirs that help save water

Groundwater monitoring is challenging. But seasonal forecasting, hydrological modelling, geophysical surveys and remote sensing technologies are being used to assess current and future availability of surface and groundwater. Complex pipeline and canal systems can be used to convey surplus water from basins with water surplus to water-scarce basins, so-called inter-basin transfer.[49] A key adaptation measure for farmers, cities and communities is water storage in various forms. This can range from rainwater harvesting and improved soil water storage to larger reservoirs such as multipurpose dams, lakes, tanks or water towers. Nature-based solutions can be instrumental in flood mitigation while also acting as reservoirs and replenishing groundwater. Wetlands for example are known to store enormous amounts of water. They do this in essence by first capturing and then retaining water long enough for it to infiltrate into the soil. Building micro-catchments such as terraces, sand dams, keylines, contour bunds and ridges also helps achieve the same effect. How much of the precipitation and runoff makes its way into groundwater is determined by factors such as soil characteristics, surface vegetation and landscape structures. Read less

Technologies for water conservation

Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) technologies are one artificial approach to water storage gaining in prominence, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Water is guided to underground aquifers through for example injection wells and … Read more

Technologies for water conservation

Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) technologies are one artificial approach to water storage gaining in prominence, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Water is guided to underground aquifers through for example injection wells and infiltration basins. This technique has significant untapped potential and is considered ready for upscaling. The search for new application areas for MAR is driven by developments in water treatment technologies designed to ensure reclaimed water can be used safely. This is creating the potential for alternative water inputs to recharge aquifers. Among these are urban stormwater, treated sewage water and desalinated seawater. In India, the country with the highest MAR capacity, artificial recharge has been undertaken by government agencies. As water is often collected during monsoons, this shows that MAR could play a vital role in managing water-related disasters. Millions of structures for artificial recharge in various forms are now planned in urban and rural areas within India.[50] Read less

A more efficient water management

Every drop counts when adapting to increased water scarcity. Storing and conserving water has little effect if out-paced by increased water demand. It is evident that the expansion of water storage has not been able to keep up with population … Read more

A more efficient water management

Every drop counts when adapting to increased water scarcity. Storing and conserving water has little effect if out-paced by increased water demand. It is evident that the expansion of water storage has not been able to keep up with population growth.[51] Demand for water to feed industry, agriculture and domestic use is expected to far outstrip supply in the future.[52] In the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation technologies can help control water use. Precision farming has the potential for a more targeted application of water according to need (see chapter on Agriculture and forestry). For domestic use, household appliances such as faucet aerators and water-saving showers and toilets could be cost-effective ways to conserve water. In Beijing, such appliances were recently found to achieve 22 percent water use efficiency.[53] Studies have also shown that smart water meters can trigger positive behavior change.[54] Metering is a technology area driven by digitalization and the need to reduce non-revenue water (NRW, water lost in distribution networks and so on). Indeed, water use efficiency is one of utility providers’ most readily achievable goals. Especially considering that, globally, the volume of NRW is nearly 350 million cubic meters a day.[55] Countries such as Denmark have managed to bring NRW down below 10 percent, with some utilities having eliminated it completely.[56] Technologies that manage water pressure and detect leaks, such as sensors combined with internet of things (IoT) and information and communications technology (ICT), have played a key role. Together with automated control systems for water rationing, they make more effective water use possible.[57] Read less