Wanted: Silicon Valley Ventures to Save Water

Late last month, Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown implemented mandatory water conservation rules. The rules ban all restaurants, bars and hotels from serving water unless customers ask for it, ban the watering of lawns and landscaping within 48 hours of measurable rain, and require municipalities and private companies to limit lawn watering to two days a week.

California is experiencing one of the most catastrophic drought events in its history.

Some of it is serious and some fodder for humor, as James Corden of the “Late Late Show” explained recently:

Residents of other states should take a lesson from California, said Ben Chou, a water policy analyst in the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. “Attention on California is due to the size of the state and the fact that we grow about half of the nation’s produce,” he said. “Other states have started looking at it, especially where water supplies are at a premium.”

Montana, for example, was listed in the GAO report as the state most likely to have a statewide water shortage in the next decade. Many other western states are in a similar predicament.  And so are eastern states.  Much of Georgia has experienced record low levels for lakes, reservoirs, and streams, effecting water tables, fresh water drinking sources, and wildlife and vegetation.

Let’s get the best minds and technology together and help solve this problem.

Mark Zuckerberg has said many times, as have his colleagues in start-up companies in Silicon Valley, that he wants “to save the world.” And the venture capital firms have stepped up to the plate to help him and Facebook.

But it appears the mission is not to “save the world” but to “grow the marketplace for  disrupting existing markets.”  Saving water doesn’t seem to be on the drawing boards for now.  According to one of Silicon Valley’s  pre-eminent venture investors, Vinod Khosla, “Not sure I have much to say on the water crisis that is enlightening.”

Or this from a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caulfield, “Water is not a rational market today.”

Still, what can Silicon Valley and its myriad start-up entrepreneurs do to help solve one of the planet’s most important problems–the diminishing stores and gluttonous use of fresh water?

To date, technology innovations around water conservation have largely come from Israel where sensor-based irrigation innovations have energized market acceptance in the farm machinery and wine industry, where water is key.

Maybe there is a clue in the market model for WaterSmart, a San Francisco-based startup that marries the social networking reach of the Internet to the conservation needs of water utilities to change consumer behavior and to detect leaks, according to Science Times reporter John Markoff, reporting on the dearth of Silicon Valley interest in water conservation.

Next time a Silicon Valley startup billionaire says he or she wants to change the world, ask him what he’s doing to replenish the water used to keep his company’s vast campus green, his pool filled, or the gazillion plastic water bottles filled that seem to be attached, marsupial-like, to their hands whenever they’re sitting at their screens or being interviewed on their latest acquisition or other Internet investment.

This entry was posted in Comedy, Innovation, Silicon Valley, social policy, technology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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