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The new key to smart cities: water supply

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Water is the elephant in the room. IDTechEx’s new study, Smart Cities Market 2021-2041: Energy, Food, Water, Materials, Transportation Forecasts, points out that cities increasingly and massively depend on water technology as sea levels rise, and for other reasons. They will eliminate sewage systems by treating it where it is produced. Gone will be thirsty, traditional agriculture systems, and their global supply chains.

Currently, cities are killing the sea that is increasingly near to them. Dead ocean areas are spreading. They do this with untreated sewerage, salt from desalination plants, chemicals from factories, leisure activities, marine vessels, and farm runoff of toxins and fertilizer. Cities must instead farm the sea, maintain biodiversity and create benign marine tourism and leisure activities. Methods of distributing salt from desalination without killing bio-life exist, but deployment is slow.

The report analyses the following trends in water utilisation:

Cities on the sea

Smart cities are planned to be at sea and on reclaimed land as at Forest City Malaysia, which promises a veritable jungle with “sounds of nature” and all that greenery self-watering. You can buy a house on and under the sea in Dubai. 

Cities will make all their own food, fresh water, and electricity for reasons of empowerment, security, and cost. That electricity-generation is even pivoting to water with tidal turbines — installed from Scotland to the Hudson River in New York — and wave power, both being almost continuous and using almost none of the steel and concrete that produces 16% of global warming. Tidal turbines and wave power take a few hours to drop them in — not 10 years as for hydro dams.

Part of the reason for water power is that there is less and less land for wind turbines and solar farms. Silicon solar works better when cold, so it is migrating to sea or lakes as ‘floatovoltaics’. New photovoltaic materials are even useful underwater, and photovoltaic paint is on the way, as explained in the IDTechEx report, Materials Opportunities in Emerging Photovoltaics 2020-2040.

Leaders in tidal power such as Simec Atlantis and Verdant Power have more companies chasing them. The same can be said for wave power leaders such as Seabased, Wello, and Eco Wave. ORPC RivGen horizontal axis water turbines are proving viable, even in shallow rivers, and they do not disturb fish. Most water power is virtually continuous – no massive batteries. See the IDTechEx report, Distributed Generation: Off-Grid Zero-Emission kW-MW 2020-2040.

Leisure and freight on water

Cities will focus more on their leisure industry and freight transport to be on the water. See the IDTechEx report, Electric Leisure & Sea-going Boats and Ships 2021-2040.

IDTechEx sees several ways that even large ships can become zero-emission, as compared to the present when they each pollute as much as millions of cars. At the other extreme, Swiss Seabubble aquaplaning water taxis are zero-emission, charged by small river turbines under the landing platform, and are planned for Paris. 

Click below to read on about smart agriculture, gardening, water transport and thirsty desert cities in water utilisation trends.

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