Unleashing Water Tech Potential: The Untapped Climate Tech Frontier

Dive into the world of water tech with Noldev's blog, exploring innovative solutions in water management, climate adaptation, and purification. Discover how the industry is evolving and its vital role in addressing climate change.

Dripping innovation. Water tech

What is water tech?

One of the most important, but also one of the most underfunded sectors in climate tech is water tech. Water tech are technologies with water as core value proposition, either to reduce freshwater consumption or to create freshwater supplies. It's a collection of hardware, software, and a combination of the two.

The importance of water tech not only lies at the need for adaptation to the changing climate, it's also linked to our water consumption: individuals need it to survive, and many industries rely heavily on water as well for their production processes.

Funding in water tech

Climate tech is increasingly gaining traction, but water tech is still lagging behind. In 2021, only $470M went into water tech, according to the numbers of Greenbiz. Net Zero Insights estimates that in 2021 it was $1.44bn, which slightly dropped in 2022 to $1.37bn. In comparison: according to their numbers, climate tech raised $82bn in total in 2022. Sifted only looked at the numbers for Europe and noticed the raised amount doubled from $150M in 2021 to $300M in 2022, a growing but still small number compared to the rest of the climate tech sectors.

Bar chart showing the amount raised per quarter in 2021 and 2022 for water tech
Though the amounts differ per quarter, water tech startups raised a similar amount in 2021 and 2022 (Source: Net Zero Insights)

The reported numbers differ because of stricter criteria and/or double-counted rounds if it overlaps with another sector (for example AgTech), but the trend is telling. Water tech only receives a small percentage of climate tech venture capital (0.8% for Greenbiz, 1.7% for Net Zero Insights). The good news is that it looks like the field is getting more appreciation, and the latest wave of funding went mostly in the direction of solutions for industries. There are also some VCs and accelerators specifically meant for water tech, such as Burnt Island Ventures, PureTerra, and ImagineH2O.

Solutions in water tech

Water tech encompasses a broad range of solutions. It can be broadly divided in water management systems, climate adaptation, and water purification and generation.

Water management

An aspect where a lot of quick but long term gains can be made, is efficient water management. Software and AI modeling allow us to monitor the full water management cycle, interfere where needed, and optimize distribution based on predicted demand. Some examples of water planning tools are:

  • Water efficiency and demand
  • Irrigation systems
  • Leak detection
  • Water metering
  • ...

A possible application is leak detection. Buildings (industries, municipalities, and other services) are responsible for 70% of fresh water usage, but not all of this water is consumed deliberately. The water efficiency report of Shayp looked at data from over 5000 buildings and noticed that on average 21.8% of water is wasted. 30% of water leaks are small leaks, but even these can lead up to huge losses. 93% of leakages go unnoticed, which could be remedied by smart meters and leak detection software.

Pie chart of volume of water waste over a day divided by leak flow
The volume of water waste over a day divided by leak flow shows that buildings often lose a lot of water through small to medium-sized leaks (Source: Shayp)

Climate adaptation

The increase in water-related disasters has been one of the most telling indicators of climate change. Last Summer, Europe saw its rivers dry up, whereas Pakistan experienced deathly floods. And those are just two examples in a long list.

Water technologies are a crucial part of the adaptation technologies, both to predict risks and defend against inevitable disasters. Some focus areas are:

  • Stormwater and flood control
  • Hazard and risk assessment
  • Drought adaptation
  • Water storage and allocation
  • Glacier lake outburst prevention
  • Shoreline protection against rising sea levels
  • ...

Water purification and generation

We not only need to measure water, we also need to collect and treat it:

  • (Industrial) filtering and purification
  • Desalination
  • Solar distillation
  • Fog harvesting
  • Water recycling and reuse of industrial waste water
  • Recycling and reuse of household water
  • ...

Global industry consumes 19% of freshwater supply. From pharmaceutical companies to computer chip manufacturers, from clothing to steel production: water is hard to avoid in production processes, cooling, steam and energy production, and cleaning. Lately, companies have shown increased interest in a more sustainable use of water. Big tech companies want to reduce their water usage to cool their data centers and look for ways to reuse it. Other companies look at waste water: certain industrial processes result in polluted water, tainted by chemicals and oils. To clean this waste water, researchers are developing solutions like filtration membranes and materials to break chemical bonds.

The new wave in climate tech

Compared to other areas in climate tech, water tech has received only a drop of VC money. However, the possibilities are endless, and even software-oriented VCs can join the field. If venture capital in the area increases, the gains for humans and the environment would be significant.

At Noldev we develop software for climate tech, and software for water tech is part of that. Drop us a message if you would like to talk about it.