Countries Running Out of Water: The Role of Tech in a Global Crisis

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In Delhi, India, scorching all-time high record heat waves hit millions of people as the government declared a water emergency, rationing and banning specific water uses. In Mexico City, a water catastrophe is expected. 8.8 million city residents could be completely out of water by the end of this month.

But what people are experiencing in these cities is only the beginning. Water organizations report that 25 countries, home to one-quarter of the global population, are under extremely high water deficits today. The question is what role does technology play in all of this?

Key Takeaways

  • From Mexico to India and the U.S., a global water crisis is looming, affecting billions of people worldwide.
  • Existing water technologies are scarce and expensive and cannot provide holistic solutions to rural or urban water and sanitation problems.
  • Some technological advancements, such as decentralized systems, pipe lining technology, on-source water plants, and water well-drilling innovation, offer hope.

Turning the Tide: From Rural Water Drilling Tech to Disaster Relief

While some quarters say that there’s not a lot of money in taking care of people who have water problems, fortunately, there are several companies, NGOs, and innovators that see the bigger picture. They view technology as a path to global water solutions.

John Renouard, founder and executive director of the NGO WHOlives, told Techopedia that water is going to be more valuable than oil. “People investing in these technologies will do well,” Renourd said.

Renouard first visited Africa in 2010 and immediately knew he had to do something about the lack of clean water in many African villages. Working with engineering students, Renouard brought to life his dream of a drill that could access clean water hundreds of feet deep. Today, in Africa, Renouard is affectionately known as “Bwana Maji,” or “Mr. Water”.

His tech dubbed ‘the Village Drill’, has since completed more than 14,000 wells in 40 countries, empowering millions of people with clean water, health, and opportunity.


Access to rural areas is challenging, especially after natural disasters or disruptions. Traditional drills are expensive, and getting them to these locations is often an impossible logistical task.

Renourd also talked about other new water technologies that show potential. “One area showing promise is centrifugation, spinning water fast enough to remove impurities, including salt,” Renourd said.

“If this innovation can become cost-effective and increase the amount of clean water, it could lead to life-altering breakthroughs.”

Renourd added that at the present moment, the use of UV light has the lowest cost to acquire the highest return of safe drinking water. UV light tech purifies water by killing bacteria that cause gastroenteritis.

Decentralized Solar Off-Grid Water and Energy Systems

Robert Pyman, CEO at Nexsis, a company focusing on technology for distributed utility infrastructure, also spoke with Techopedia about the water crisis and the role of technology.

“In order for technology to successfully address the global water crisis, the solution must be cost-effective, resilient, and accessible.”

Nexsis developed Smart Panel technology to provide decentralized off-the-grid access to pure drinking water, UV-treated hot sanitation water, and renewable solar energy.

“Using only sunlight, each panel produces up to 55 liters of potable water and hot sanitation water per day and 60W of renewable solar energy per day,” Pyman said.

The panels can operate independently without relying on existing utility infrastructure. “This decentralized, modular approach ensures the technology can be deployed in even remote, rural areas cost-effectively,” Pyman said.

A decentralized approach substantially reduces deployment costs compared to centralized infrastructure projects that often exceed hundreds of billions of dollars and years to complete.

“This type of tech eliminates the need to build large invasive treatment plants and upgrade aging pipelines or install costly new pipelines.”

Beyond Pipes and Plants: Decentralized Water Tech and Urban Infrastructure Solutions

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2024 found that tensions over water exacerbate conflicts globally. The report adds that 2.2 billion people still lack access to safely managed drinking water, and 3.5 billion lack access to safely managed sanitation.

According to the U.N., half of the world’s population experienced severe water scarcity for at least part of the year, and one-quarter faced ‘extremely high’ levels of water stress.

As mentioned, the water crisis is not just affecting developing countries, or rural areas alone. Recently, the U.S. EPA warned that 70% of water systems are vulnerable. The EPA also reported that $625 billion is needed to update, modernize, and repair water infrastructure nationwide.

The security state of water supply in the U.S., according to the American Society of Civil Engineers deserves a C- score, and sanitation national infrastructure a D+.

Experts warn that sanitation contamination of drinking water networks is one of the top worst-case scenarios.

Pyman from Nexsis said that aging pipe infrastructure is a common example of how water contamination is exacerbating the water crisis.

“For example, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, drinking water is produced at a modern, high quality, centralized treatment plant but delivered to homes through old, degraded piping systems.

“By the time the water reaches consumers, it is contaminated and there is a high risk of waterborne illnesses.”

And it’s not just Bangladesh that has this problem. Hospital beds around the world are taken by patients suffering from waterborne illnesses.

Renouard explained that in rural areas flooding is the number one cause of water well failure around the world. It is also the lack of clean water after a disaster that is the main cause of disease outbreaks following natural disasters.

Renouard from WHOlives also spoke of new urban water technologies that can be deployed in urban areas to fix deteriorated piping networks.

“There is a new technology that will feed a PVC pipe inside an existing metal pipe, saving billions in having to dig up and replace existing pipes.”

“These PVC tubes will last for decades, do not decay, and are resistant to interior mineral buildup,” Renouard said. “They deliver less water at higher pressures, allowing them to work more effectively.”

Promoting Long-Term Water Security: Water Facilities at the Source

Contrary to what many people think, domestic human water consumption is not the issue that needs to be tackled to create water security. Renouard broke it down.

“Changing human behavior is the least effective method of water conservation. Human populations only consume about 5% of gathered or redirected water.”

Renouard said reducing personal water usage by 50% would significantly decline our quality of life yet only yield a minuscule 2.5% change in the overall water picture.

Over 90% of global water used by humans occurs in agricultural production, which is critically dependent on rainfall and local stocks of groundwater and surface water.

Of that number, over 40% of the water intended for irrigation is lost due to evaporation, absorption, and poor water distribution methods.

“An obvious solution is to encase the flow of water from its origin to its delivery point at a farm and then employ an effective direct water-to-plant system,” Renouard said.

The Bottom Line: A Dry Future

Undeniably, innovation in water tech has been sluggish, and existing solutions like big drilling rigs can’t reach remote areas where the vast majority of the population in developing nations live.

While satellite imagery that can pinpoint underground water reserves almost anywhere is a welcomed advance, infrastructure, water management, damaged or dried-up wells, and underground reservoirs reveal a nonsustainable path leading imminently to human crises around the world.

As countries become increasingly dry, a world capable of creating the most advanced technologies still pauses when it comes to saving water — enforcing the reality of a dystopian present.

It is a big problem, and developing countries and the most vulnerable are the most impacted. There still is hope as countless organizations and companies bridge the gap between water innovation and water implementation.


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Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist
Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist

Ray is an independent journalist with 15 years of experience, focusing on the intersection of technology with various aspects of life and society. He joined Techopedia in 2023 after publishing in numerous media, including Microsoft, TechRepublic, Moonlock, Hackermoon, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and ServerWatch. He holds a degree in Journalism from Oxford Distance Learning and two specializations from FUNIBER in Environmental Science and Oceanography. When Ray is not working, you can find him making music, playing sports, and traveling with his wife and three kids.