In the last few months flood related water quality issues have ravaged Austin(more below), North Carolina, Florida, and many other states/countries outside the US. Turbidity has been an issue due to flood carrying debris and taking the impurities in the water to levels higher than the water cleaning and filtration systems in these cities/regions can handle. And this will continue. What’s been extra frustrating is that a couple of chaps and I were working on a sensor device to detect, notify respondents and recommend courses of action. But we stopped. Now it’s time to revive the development of Varuna.
Early 2017, in response to Flint MI water crisis and some personal water quality issues, Waz/Dan/I decided to build a water quality sensor that focused on turbidity measures. From our research, turbidity is a leading indicator of many other water purity related issues.
We decided to build Varuna.
Hacking away at a Smart Water quality Meter.
As more and more reports of water issues rolled in, we put some resources together and built a functional prototype. While the prototype was a standalone product, the goal was that, through the deployment of many sensors, we’d build a network of nodes that fed into a platform.
A platform that would allow cities predict possible issues and clusters of issues with water: if turbidity is x and if conductivity is y at this cluster of nodes, at a large enough scale, then there is a sewage spill that is affecting homes in these zipcodes or area of a town.
We managed to build that. But we failed to build more as this was a self-funded project. And so it’s with dismay that we’ve watched Austin, a city of ~1M people and ~42k businesses, go under a ‘boil water’ warning. It’s meant Starbucks locations can’t sell you your latte or hot chocolate (a slight inconvenience).
What it’s truly meant though is that we are failing to help those less able to manage this crisis, those who cannot buy bottled water and were already under the constraints of water & energy poverty (for many reasons) and cannot boil their water without thinking about the cost or because they have no home, will suffer the most from a disaster recovery situation. A disaster recovery situation that we could have used data to handle better. And this is the case in other parts of the US where we are seeing increasing flooding and natural disaster. And we will continue to see more flood based natural disasters.
While Varuna can’t do anything about the current situation, we are asking you to contribute to, or connect us with folk who can help us, bring this product to life and, more intelligently, help cities deal with a serious issue; water impurities. Please share, like, donate and amplify this so we can get back to building what is a critical product for these urgent times.
Or contribute with cryptocurrency by emailing me!
What is the scope of this problem? The EPA classifies 52,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit non-community water systems. In 2012, the American Water Works Association concluded that the replacement value for more than one million pipes was approximately $2.1 trillion if all the pipes were to be replaced at once and $1 trillion if the costs could be spread out over 25 years. This amounts to $7000/American citizen just to get the water utility system up to par with, for example, telecoms technology. No one will spend that today.
Source: American Water Works Association ‘Buried No Longer’ Report