Zayed Sustainability Prize: Rewarding innovation in water security
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Zayed Sustainability Prize 2023: Rewarding innovations in water security

Zayed Sustainability Prize 2023: Rewarding innovations in water security

Zayed Sustainability Prize 2023’s water category finalists are developing solutions that improve wastewater treatment and access to safe water, helping communities tackle key water security challenges

Helioz is one of the finalist in the water category of Zayed Sustainability Prize 2023

The Zayed Sustainability Prize recognises and rewards small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), non-profit organisations (NPOs), and global high schools who offer sustainable solutions that benefit communities worldwide. Established by the UAE leadership in 2008, the prize honours the humanitarian and sustainability legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Since then, it has awarded 96 winners who have positively impacted the lives of over 378 million people around the world by accelerating sustainable development through their impactful, innovative and inspiring solutions.

The prize is awarded in five categories: Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools. The winners will be announced on January 16, 2022.

Here are the three finalists in the water category of the 2023 awards cycle. Their innovative solutions can be tailored to meet communities’ specific water needs, helping vulnerable communities better manage, treat, and access their precious water resources.

The proposed solutions include: a device that uses sunlight to make water safe to drink; an integrated water resource management approach that solves water scarcity issues in disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh; and a portable wastewater treatment facility in Japan that played a major role in that nation’s disaster recovery efforts after the 2019 typhoon and the 2011 tsunami.

Helioz – purifying water with sunlight

 The water solutions’ enterprise Helioz developed WADI, a tool that uses an environmentally friendly method of solar water disinfection (SODIS) to measure when water is safe to drink. SODIS includes placing water in transparent bottles and leaving them in the sun for a few hours in order to disinfect it of harmful bacteria and other pathogens.

The WADI, which has been recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a device that provides targeted protection against bacteria and protozoa, is placed next to the bottles to measure the amount of UV radiation the water is exposed to and uses prestored data to indicate when the water is safe to drink by displaying a happy face symbol on its screen.

The device is particularly useful for producing clean water in remote areas. It does not require batteries, spare parts, or consumables, enabling users to disinfect water without recurring costs or relying on sophisticated technology. It is also environmentally friendly, as it uses the sun as its power source to disinfect water, as opposed to the traditional disinfection method of boiling, preventing up to three tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per household per year from entering the atmosphere.

WADI was the brainchild of Martin Wesian, founder of Helioz, who fell ill after drinking contaminated water while travelling around South America. His experience motivated him to find an easy, sustainable way to produce clean water in remote areas. Wesiman found his answer while writing his master’s thesis. During his studies he met a Swiss civil engineer at ETH Zurich, and together they developed a device that can be paired with SODIS to secure drinkable water.

He founded Helioz in 2010, aiming to provide safe drinking water in developing countries to combat water-related diseases. Since then, the organisation has provided safe drinking water to thousands of families across India, Africa and Southeast Asia. To date, WADI has benefitted more than 362,000 people. In 2022 alone, WADI users managed to disinfect 180 million litres of water and saved nearly 60,000 tonnes of CO2.

Ledars – providing clean water and fertile land to disaster-prone communities

 The coastal region of southwestern Bangladesh has long suffered from climate change. Irregular rainfall, drought, saline water intrusion and flooding devastate livelihoods, particularly impacting the country’s agricultural sector. In the early 1990s, coastal residents started moving to urban areas to escape the hazardous conditions. However, they still faced water scarcity and the lack of agricultural lands.

The situation gave rise to the non-profit organisation Local Environment Development and Agricultural Research Society (LEDARS). Since its establishment in 1996, the company has supported vulnerable communities with water management solutions to make saline ground water suitable for drinking and cultivating crops. “We have tried to promote low-cost, user-friendly, durable solutions, so that community members can implement the solutions themselves,” explains Mohon Kumar Mondal, the company’s executive director.

Ledars has introduced an integrated water resource management approach that combines various technologies to help treat, preserve and harvest freshwater resources. They have directed their efforts towards the most disaster-prone districts in Bangladesh – Satkhira and Khulna. “Almost every year the residents of these districts are subject to devastating disasters. For instance, they were hit by the cyclonic storm Yaas last year, cyclone Amphan in 2020, cyclone Aila in 2009, and cyclone Sidr in 2007,” says Mondal.

To date, the company has helped 42 villages, providing more than 15,881 families with access to safe drinking water, and making 500 acres of land agriculturally fruitful.

“Prior to our water solutions, women and children had to walk up to five kilometres to fetch drinkable water,” said Mondal.

Improving access to clean water has also reduced waterborne diseases within the region. “We are happy to see that Ledars is leading by example; several neighbouring communities are taking the initiative to adopt our proposed water solutions by themselves,” added Mondal.

Seisui Industries – waste treatment on the move

Japanese organisation Seisui can treat wastewater anywhere, any time – providing a simple, sustainable method for treating and recycling waste on site, while reducing the cost by up to 80 per cent compared with traditional wastewater treatment plants. Seisui played a major role in managing the sewage treatment plants that were destroyed by the tsunami that caused widespread devastation along Japan’s east coast in 2011.

The company installed pumps, tanks and separators at the plant sites, and 90 per cent of the cleaned water was released into the sea.

Seisui also rose to the challenge in 2019, when a typhoon in the Tohoku region caused rivers to overflow and flood a hydroelectric power plant, trapping a volume of oil-contaminated water equivalent to 20 swimming pools. In addition to treating the trapped water on site, Seisui separated most of the crude oil from the wastewater for recycling into petroleum products.

Seisui started their nomadic wastewater treatment method by coincidence. Initially, the company used to sell and rent out various environmentally efficient equipment.

“One time, a client asked us to treat wastewater at his plant. We came up with a way to treat it on site, and the client was very pleased. We realised there was a business opportunity in building mobile wastewater treatment facilities,” said Kenichi Imoto, President and CEO of Seisui.

“We developed wastewater treatment and waste separation machines that can be deployed to deal with wastewater on the spot, thereby reducing the cost of transferring the waste to a treatment facility.”

Seisui’s wastewater solution has been used at more than 2,500 locations in Japan. These include factories, power plants, refineries, ports, and sewage and water treatment plants.

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