Water tech could be the next gold rush for European VCs

1 min read


While many of us in Europe take it for granted, access to freshwater today, and in the future, is far from guaranteed. Demand is skyrocketing but supply is diminishing. Many of the ways in which water is used are inefficient and antiquated, and climate change is making the entire problem a lot worse. 

Europe just had its most severe drought in 500 years. Industries are being forced to shut down or divert water from other sources to maintain operations, while protests have broken out over shortages, most recently in France and Spain. Experts predict that global freshwater demand will outstrip supply by 40% by the end of this decade.  

Water technologies — from pulling water from thin air to transforming saltwater into fresh, and everything in between — will be critical in helping industry and society adapt to this new reality. 

Unfortunately, water tech still receives a small fraction of the total climate tech funding. Out of some €50bn invested in climate tech globally in 2021, just €430m — less than 1% — was allocated for water tech. 

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The good news? There is an emerging cohort of  tech startups working to prevent the impending water crisis, and investors are beginning to catch on.  

Doing more with less

From source to treatment to tap – a lot of money, energy, and resources go into supplying the water we use each day. Shockingly, up to half of this water is lost due to leaky pipes. Another big chunk is lost due to inefficient use, and in most countries, water is never reused. But as water scarcity increases, so does the need to start doing more with less.  

One company catering to an up-and-coming segment of water-conscious homeowners is Sweden-based Orbital Systems. The startup, which has raised €65m to date, has developed a shower system inspired by NASA that reuses water in a closed loop. But don’t worry, the shower is equipped with sensors that detect urine or other unsavoury liquids, which get filtered out before the water is reused — thank god.    

The company claims its “shower of the future” saves 90% of water and 80% of energy compared to a regular unit. While the systems aren’t cheap — at $4k (3,680) a pop — Orbital says that homeowners could save $1,100 (1,011) per year in water bills.