By 2025, more than half the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas and about a billion more will not have sufficient access to adequate water resources.
That’s according to research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But what’s being done to address these troubling statistics? And who has the long-term solution? Step forward Aaron Steeves, an entrepreneur from Boston, Massachusetts, who believes his prototype greywater treatment system could revolutionize how we conserve and recycle water.
Entrepreneurship is in Aaron’s blood. His first foray into business was as a young boy peddling a homebrewed soft drink called ‘Sugar Quench’ to his school friends.
As he matured, so did his ideas, and from his accumulated life experience grew a new ambition: to build micro-gyms for time-poor travelers in airport lounges.
In 2016, Aaron took this idea with him to the International School of Management (ISM) in Paris, where it became the focus of his IMBA project.
Over time, his original vision evolved – sculpted by conversations with his ISM classmates and the diverse experiences and cultural perspectives they offered.
A year later his project had transformed beyond all recognition. Rather than take his micro-gym concept forward, he had decided instead – in the strict confines of his parents’ basement – to create a prototype closed-loop greywater treatment system. His aim is simple: develop a compact, affordable and easily implementable means of conserving and recycling urban household wastewater into water fit for human consumption.
“The first step in any purification system is to rip apart your parents’ plumbing,” Aaron said. Indeed, while not the first place you might think to construct a greywater purification system, the bowels of Aaron’s family home proved the perfect incubation space for his ideas. Given the indisputable benefits of his product, however, it was clear he would not be confined to his parents’ basement for long. His progress has been keenly monitored by several commercial retailers, as well as NGOs and charities.
Far from being a problem for the future alone, changing our relationship with water and how we conserve it can have enormous benefit for millions of people around the globe today. Demand for water is already outstripping supply and this is set to continue, with some projections suggesting a 55% increase between 2000-2050.
In Australia, the ‘millennium drought’ of 1997-2010 forced the government to introduce strict water conservation measures. Some dry countries, including Israel and the Gulf states, have even turned to desalinization: the recycling of salt water as a stop-gap means of meeting water needs. The problem with both approaches is that they are either costly or they limit human activity in some way.
This is where Aaron Steeves hopes his prototype can lead the way and transform how we conserve water. What started as a bold and ambitious ISM student project could, he believes, become one of the most viable and cost-effective means we have to conserve and sanitize greywater into safe drinking water. And he hopes it could one day create a lasting shift in how society views and uses water.