Blockchain Can Mitigate the Global Water Crisis

Blockchain, Innovation | July 25, 2018 By:

Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water.  The water crisis is not confined to any one country or continent; from Flint, Michigan to Cape Town, South Africa to Asia’s heavily populated cities, millions of people struggle, daily, to get enough clean water to drink, wash, bathe and grow their food.

As with any vital resource, it is not necessarily a lack of supply, but the inadequate means of production and distribution that are causing this crisis. Water around the world is managed by a centralized, typically government-controlled, infrastructure that is unquestionably broken. 80 percent of the world’s water is released untreated. Even the U.S. only recycles about 1 percent of its wastewater.

We consider water to be a public utility because it always has been, but how many water providers do you have to choose from in your area? In the US, we typically have a single company serving large metropolitan areas, and as Flint can tell you, that particular bottleneck can be extremely damaging.

So why isn’t water a competitive enterprise? Well it is, kind of. There are many clean water NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and independent water companies who sanitize water supplies from various sources and get it to the people who need it. The problem is, we only have access to any of the supply through that one utility company. So unless these water entrepreneurs are working with the established system, it is difficult to directly fund them.

Until recently, that is. Blockchain, which entered mainstream awareness through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is actually a technology that can provide the foundation for a decentralized market for any industry, including water.

Blockchain can open the water industry to more entrepreneurs by creating a new funding mechanism using tokens and smart contracts. Individuals can fund new water enterprises by purchasing tokens in a blockchain-secured marketplace, in exchange for a share of the profits. It’s similar to investing, but removes the middlemen in favor of an open exchange. And blockchain verifies transactions to guard against fraud and theft.

Think about how places like Flint and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico could be served by an influx of independent water companies who don’t rely on individual, already strained citizens to operate or be profitable. And that’s just in the US. Across the world there are many water experts and entrepreneurs with the ability to help and just as many willing to be a part of that mission by investing in these projects.

Blockchain has the potential to change the way many industries operate by creating a decentralized platform for data sharing – be it financial or otherwise. This means more ways for individuals to securely invest in important causes. In the particular case of water, more avenues of funding mean that existing on-site projects can be supported and new entrepreneurs will be drawn to the clean water industry. Helping people can also be a successful business model and decentralization through a blockchain platform can help circumvent the bottlenecks and corruption within the infrastructure that got us here in the first place.