Can Smart City Technology Solve Urban Water Shortage Problems?


Urban regions across the world face many challenges. They’re often underserved when it comes to adequate healthcare, they may be at a greater risk of becoming food deserts, and they even face struggles in terms of climate change-induced water shortages.

There’s no denying that the effects of climate change are causing problems across the globe. The American west is likely to face power and water shortages that could have a dire impact on families, but the entire urban population of the country could be at risk if we continue to see these negative global patterns.

Thankfully, technology could be the answer. Using smart city technology, in tandem with citizen action, urban areas can conserve water more effectively and efficiently. Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges urban areas face when it comes to climate change and water shortages, before covering a few smart tech ideas that can make a big difference.

Why Are Urban Areas Struggling?

There are water-scarce cities all over the globe in places you might not expect. Some of the most populated places currently facing water issues include:

  • Beijing, China
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Sao Paolo, Brazil

In the U.S., cities like Los Angeles, Houston, and Jackson have all faced clean water crises in recent years, and they certainly aren’t the only ones. These cities across the world have faced water shortages for various reasons, including growing populations and irrigation for agriculture.

Climate change has created even bigger problems for already-struggling populations. Over 90% of natural disasters are water-related, including floods and droughts. These disasters are often linked to climate change. It’s believed that changes to the atmosphere brought on by climate change are more likely to create extreme weather conditions, including the issues listed above.

In urban populations, these disasters can wreak havoc on a city’s ecosystem, limiting access to fresh water almost immediately. Since clean water is in such high demand, most urban areas don’t have a “reserve” or backup to offer citizens, putting them in immediate danger.

Smart Technology for a Safer Tomorrow

So, what can smart tech do to solve urban water shortage problems? It starts with investing in the right infrastructure to recycle existing water supplies. It’s no secret that many city grids are unprepared for the lasting effects of climate change. However, power outages won’t be the only issue facing urban areas if changes don’t happen quickly.

In addition to creating and updating grids, tactics to save and recycle water also need to be put in place. Thankfully, technology can make it possible. One possible solution is reusing “greywater” — water that isn’t fit for drinking, but can be used for things like:

  • Irrigation
  • Toilet flushing
  • Washing machines
  • Showers

Greywater is the “waste” from non-toilet plumbing systems. If cities can reroute greywater to toilets, it could save up to 30% of the average household’s indoor water use.

Another option is to focus on smart farming. Smart farming utilizes data to optimize the production of crops while minimizing the use of resources. If cities installed IoT networks in urban or suburban agricultural products, they could save on much of the water used for irrigation. Items like sensors that collect soil data, solar-powered robotic devices, and even geolocation services are all currently being used in smart farming practices, and cities can take advantage of this tech to reduce water waste and the risk of urban food deserts.

What Can You Do?

It’s clear that infrastructures need to change across the globe to provide clean drinking water to our entire population. Smart city technology is one of the best ways to combat potential crises all over the world when it comes to water scarcity.

However, we can’t rely on technology alone to undo the damage of climate change and to make the most of our natural resources. You can do your part by saving water in your own home, and getting your family involved to do the same. Some of the easiest ways to conserve water each day include:

  • Avoiding plastic bottled water
  • Installing a rain barrel
  • Fixing water leaks in your home
  • Only doing full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Installing low-flow showerheads and toilets
  • Taking shorter showers

Many of these easy water conservation ideas will also help you save in other ways. For example, taking shorter showers will reduce the amount of hot water you use each day, which can have a positive impact on your utility bills. If your family is having trouble with these efforts, consider “gamifying” them to make things more interesting. See who can take the shortest shower each day, or have your kids guess how much water is in the rain barrel outside. The more excited you can get the next generation about solving the water crisis, the better. Plus, it serves as an opportunity to teach them about the effects of climate change, and what they can do to create a future without water scarcity.