Sustainable Urban Communities

Waterspots: Watering Holes for the 21st century

By Urban Fabrick Collaborative

Location

United States

Team Leader

Johanna Hoffman

Our solution:

Waterspots are water catchment and treatment hubs combining rain, fog and dew harvesting with public gathering space. By synthesizing water collection systems and public space, Waterspots serve as both vital water harvesting systems and a means of bringing people together around the value and increasing scarcity of water. 

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Our pitch:

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The problem:

Climate change poses serious water security problems. In the coming decades, rainfall levels in many semi-arid climates across the globe are predicted to decrease. Rain events that do occur are slated to be stronger and shorter. Chronic water scarcity will increasingly be the norm.

Maximizing our capacity to diversify our water sources is key to enhancing water resilience as climates shift. Two under-utilized resources in drier regions are fog and dew. As climate change progresses, capturing the two for drinking purposes will become increasingly vital for water security. 

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Why our solution will solve the problem:

Integrating decentralized water catchment strategies into regional water systems increases the resilience of our water supplies. Harnessing often overlooked resources such as fog, dew and rainwater creates a more diversified water supply, thus increasing water security across the globe.

In addition to providing these alternative, decentralized water catchment services, Waterspots enhance public and recreational spaces. In doing so, they provide opportunities for enhanced community connections and education, a critical ingredient of resilience. As more researchers agree, the best bet for creating more resilient systems is to foster community awareness and organization, thus strengthening our collective capacities for learning and adaptation.

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Our solution's stage of development:

Research

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Target Outcomes

Our target outcomes:

Waterspots are a scalable tool for onsite water catchment and public engagement around water security issues in urban areas. When strategically deployed, Waterspots create a decentralized & diversified water catchment system, harnessing rain, fog & dew in watering holes for the 21st century.

As efficiency of the systems improve, Waterspots can be linked up to municipal water systems. In areas where water infrastructure is less developed, WaterSpot catchment cisterns can be enlarged by adding on modular seating options, which double as water storage compartments.

Waterspots will be distributed through government sponsored partnerships with our non-profit organization. 

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How we will measure our progress:

  • Outcome: Catch enough water for simple demonstrations of Waterspot viability in 5 different neighborhoods of Kathmandu, our first deployment site
    Measurement Plan: Measure water collected from fog vs dew vs rain in 5 deployed prototypes in different neighborhoods of Kathmandu, our first deployment site, over 2-month period
  • Outcome: Create culturally sensitive and engaging user experience for educational interfaces
    Measurement Plan: Track number of people engaging with the educational interfaces by monitoring touch screen activation and use
  • Outcome: Design Waterspots to be both durable and welcoming to residents of deployment areas
    Measurement Plan: Assess how resident interact with deployed prototypes. Do they try to break them down? Seem to take care of them? Assess over 1-month period via time-lapse photography setup onsite.
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The populations we will benefit initially:

  • Adult
  • Lower middle income economies (between $1006 and $3975 GNI)
  • Secondary
  • Non-binary
  • Urban
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The regions we will benefit initially:

  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • South Asia
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The countries we will benefit initially:

  • Egypt
  • Guatemala
  • Nepal
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Technology

The technologies we employ:

  • Consumer-facing software (mobile applications, cloud services)
  • Digital systems (machine learning, control systems, big data)
  • Environmental engineering
  • Management & design approaches
  • Materials & nanotechnology
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Why our solution is unique:

Many areas are currently affected by lack of access to safe water sources. Maximizing community and municipal capacities to diversify water sources is key to addressing these issues. Fog and dew are two valuable and currently  under-utilized water resources in drier regions. 

At present, however, there are few widespread systems to capture either for drinking purposes. Waterspots are designed to maximize on-site water catchment capabilities from these sources while providing vital community gathering space. Doing so creates important opportunities for public engagement in water security issues. 

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Why our solution is human-centered:

For each new deployment site, Waterspots goes through a community-based design process. Before deployment, we partner with communities on the ground to further refine and develop Waterspot models to reflect and honor local cultural norms and practices. Throughout installment periods, we collaborate with our community partners to conduct ongoing evaluation and refinement assessment of the utilized fog and dew catchment technologies, as well the educational designs. Those assessments inform design refinements moving forward. 

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How people will access our solution:

In addition to providing diversified, decentralized water catchment services, Waterspots enhance public & recreational spaces. In doing so, they provide greater opportunities for community connection & education on water security issues, a critical ingredient of resilience. As more researchers agree, the best bet for creating more resilient systems is to foster community awareness & organization, thus strengthening our collective capacities for learning & adaptation.

Waterspots will be distributed through government sponsored partnerships with our non-profit organization. Each will be sited in a public space where all residents will have regular, continued access. 

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Technology-Readiness Level:

0 (Concept)
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Business Plan

Our organization:

Non-Profit

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Where we are located:

United States
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How we will sustain our team financially:

We develop Waterspots as part of our ongoing, non-profit based efforts to identify opportunities to enhance urban resilience across the globe. We fund our efforts through grants and a partnership with our sister organization, an S-corp enterprise focused on sustainability consulting. We plan to continue financially sustaining ourselves in this way as we develop the Waterspots project. 

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The factors limiting our success:

Steps required to successfully develop and deploy Waterspots systems across urban areas in need include the following: secure funding; proceed with design development and refinement, identify locations, communities and public/private partnership opportunities; deploy Waterspots models, continually monitoring and measuring viability of different water catchment types, particularly the utility of dew vs fog in different areas; refine design according to water catchment assessments and user feedback; scale up where appropriate.

Key factors limiting our ability to succeed in these areas are funding, securing and facilitating successful partnerships, developing water catchment materials to necessarily efficient degrees. 

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How long we have been working on our solution:

Less than 1 year
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How long it will take to develop a pilot:

6-12 months
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How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:

18+ months
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Our expected annual budget:

$125000

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How much of our budget we've secured to date:

$50000

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Our promotional video:

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Partnership Needs

We're looking for partners in these fields:

  • Lifelong Learning
  • Online Learning
  • Water Treatment
  • Water Sourcing
  • Built Infrastructure
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Why we're applying to Solve:

Waterspots is in its early steps. Given where the project currently stands, financial, technical and community support are all very welcome. It’s for these reasons that we have applied to this year’s Solve Competition. In addition to financial and technical support, the potential for greater community support at this juncture would be incredibly valuable. Solve is comprised of an impressive array of smart, talented and engaged people from a diverse array of backgrounds. Being in contact while crafting this next phase of Waterspots and refining its form would be a real gift. 

   

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Our current partners:

Current partners include Dr. Peter Weiss, a researcher and lecturer at UC Santa Cruz’s Chemistry Department specializing in atmospheric chemistry  and environmental justice, and Dr. Daniel Fernandez, a professor of Natural Sciences at CS Monterey Bay. His research focuses on the collection of water from fog and maximizing collection techniques. 

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Solution Team

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