Fire hydrants exist to save lives in case of a conflagration, but they also moonlight — when they malfunction — as a source of gushing water for children to splash around and cool off in during the summer.
Israeli firm HydrantTech aims to stem that deluge, though, with a smart device it developed for fire hydrants that alerts authorities to leaks, water theft or malicious attempts to penetrate a water supply.
“In Chicago alone, some 5 million gallons of water daily” is lost to open fire hydrants or illegal use, said Dovik Barkay, the CEO of the Ramat Yishai-based firm, citing Commissioner Debra Shore of the Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. That costs the city some $9 million a year, he said.
The smart metal device developed by HydrantTech screws onto the mouth of a hydrant, surrounded by sensors. It collects data and sends it to the cloud, from where alerts get sent to control systems or to the phones of specific operatives, who can go fix the problem. The Israeli firm has just started selling its product to water authorities in Haifa, Petah Tikva and Tiberias, Barkay said, and is looking to expand its activities abroad.
Barkay was displaying his technology at the Watec Israel event being held this week in Tel Aviv attended by thousands of visitors from around the globe, including India, Peru, and the Netherlands, who want to tap into water technologies being developed in the so-called Startup Nation. Panel and plenary discussions at the event focused on advancements in “smart water” technologies, wastewater processing, and how big data can be harnessed to bring clean water to everyone.
By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas, according to a June 2019 fact sheet by the World Health Organization
“Safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes,” the World Health Organization said. “Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.”
At the event on Tuesday, Andrew Wheeler, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency since February, stressed the importance of global partnerships for tackling environmental problems and talked about how the US can learn from Israel in reclaiming wastewater. Israel reclaims some 90 percent of its wastewater, he said, whereas in the US that figure is just 6%. “So clearly we have a lot to learn,” he said.
There are some 250 companies developing water technologies and equipment in Israel, according to figures provided by the Israel Export Institute, and the nation exports some $2.4 billion annually in water technologies and equipment. More than 180 startups operate in the fields of water and wastewater treatment, irrigation, water systems, water network management, desalination technologies, and water quality detection, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit that tracks the industry.
Israel, over 60% of its land being desert, has pushed to create technologies to make every drop of water count. Today most of its drinking water comes from desalination facilities and it is considered a world leader in all aspects of water management.
“Our innovation stemmed from necessity,” said Adiv Baruch, the chairman of the Israel Export Institute, in his talk at Watec. “We have innovation and we have technologies. How do we scale it up and share it with the world?” he asked.
At the exhibition, Woosh Water showcased its “smart” water station for schools and public places, with water taps providing purified and chilled water to eliminate the use of plastic bottles, explained Dani Oren, in charge of business development at the firm.
Each water station contains a purification system and a bottle-cleansing system for reusable bottles. The stations are fully computerized and remotely monitored by a control center for 24/7 service. The system is being already being sold to municipalities and private entities in the US, Oren said.
Caesarea‐based NUFiltration Ltd. showed off its technology, which repurposes dialyzers that have reached the end of their lives and uses them as water purification devices for developing countries. Lishtot, a Jerusalem-based firm founded in 2015, has developed TestDrop, a key chain-like device that the company says can detect contaminants in water such as E. coli, lead, arsenic, mercury, copper and chlorine in just two seconds.
Jerusalem-based Ayyeka displayed its data-logging black boxes that connect to sensors within water networks to monitor wastewater for illegal discharges, or foreign particles like paint and oil, that cannot be recycled. This aims to make water recycling systems safer and more effective. “To recycle wastewater, you need to understand its quality,” said Isaac Sachs, a sales rep of the firm.
“As a nation, how do you monitor your water?” he asked. “Everyone monitors their heartbeat or their blood pressure. Our system sits in any pipe, just like an artery. Our product is like a Fitbit for water networks.” Fitbit is an app and a watch-like device that is used for tracking activity, workers and sleep in humans.