Rarely do we view problems as launchpads for solutions.
But environmental challenges offer us just these kind of opportunities.
Though global challenges such as climate change and pollution seem too daunting, they come with a silver lining.
They present an opportunity for the risk taking innovator to provide solutions (while making money in the process).
Perhaps one of the most crucial fronts in this regard is tackling water pollution.
So let’s begin at home…
As we shower, where does the water go?
When we wash dishes, where does the rinse water go?
Water recycling is one such initiative that could save on domestic utility bills.
Simple practices that go a long way include:
Collecting showering water in a basin and using it for flushing…
Using the kitchen rinse water to water the backyard garden etc.
These together with more sophisticated innovations such as showers with a high air pressure go a long way in reducing wastage of this commodity.
Where are the urban designers and sanitation engineers?
Where are the tinkerers and innovators willing to start small, do test runs and commercialize such technologies?
But great concern still exists about the quality of tap water we use domestically.
High fluoride content, trace heavy metals, pesticide residues, microorganisms and pharmaceutical pollutants are increasingly becoming a source of concern among tap water users.
In Kenya, though county governments run water and sanitation companies, they’re frequently faced with labour issues which compromise on service delivery.
If that’s the case, is our tap water always safe for human consumption?
Perhaps one possible innovative space is in manufacture and sale of domestic water filters targeting specific notorious pollutants.
Of concern especially in Kenya is fluoride who’s elevated content in water leads to dental and bone deterioration.
Another area of opportunity is in water softening filters which could come in handy for those relying in heavily salted groundwater.
But beyond the domestic front, untreated industrial effluent pose a great threat to the livelihoods of many.
Though they might not admit it, many industries crave for technologies that could target and eliminate toxic pollutants contained in their wastewater.
The truth of the matter is their core business is to manufacture products and not to treat wastewater (unless there’s a department to deal with that).
Since the drive towards environmental sustainability might put many such industries at a disadvantage, they could outsource water treatment services and in the process create sustainable manufacturing practices.
So a budding entrepreneur desiring to test industrial wastewater treatment technologies has an opportunity.
But treating contaminated water proves useful even in agriculture.
Ever walked past a green water body covered with algae and water hyacinths?
Water nutrient pollution is brought about by untreated sewage and indiscriminate use of mineral fertilizers.
Such high phosphate and nitrate levels lead to algal bloom degrading the aquatic life while destroying ecosystems in the process.
But what if such nutrients could be removed from water and reused for farming?
Materials such as biochar are very effective in this regard.
Being highly porous, biochar ‘locks’ onto nutrients releasing them slowly in the soil during farming.
Such an opportunity offers to ‘kill two birds with one stone’:
treat contaminated water; & prepare slow release fertilizers.
Water pollution provides many unexploited opportunities for the budding innovator desiring to make a difference while improving his bottom line in the process.