Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Science, Technology 2015-07-08

We are constantly being bombarded by politicians, hippies and bumper-stickers that try to encourage us to decrease our water usage.  However, these attempts are evidently in vain as the occurrence of water shortage continues to rise annually. 58% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population are deprived of regular clean drinking water and recent shocking figures show the decline of Beijing’s water table over the past 20 years. Therefore, scientists are working around the clock to come up with newer and more innovative methods and technology to combat the challenge of a globally decreasing water supply. Whilst some of these inventions aim to increase the water supply available to an area, others focus on increasing the quality of the existing water supply to the region using methods such as filtering.


Top inventions for increasing water supply…


Cloud Seeding:

Cloud Seeding is a form of weather modification first speculated by Vincent Schaefer in 1946. It enhances the level of moisture within a cloud through the aid of chemicals such as silver iodide, therefore increasing the amount of precipitation that falls from the cloud. Initially, this method was used as a weapon by the US military against North Vietnam in 1967, successfully extending the region’s monsoon season, which hindered their plans of war. However, it is now commonly used as a technique to increase water supply for social and industrial purposes. China displays the world’s largest seeding system, using it to suspend periods of drought that are becoming more and more common in certain parts of the country, especially in the capital city of Beijing.


Fog tower

Fog Catching:

Although less technological, fog catching is another very successful process used to increase water supply. A vertical canvas is used that ‘catches’ the moisture droplets in fog. The water vapour condenses on the cool surface of the canvas to create dew, which then flows down the canvas and is collected underneath. In the future, the simple net structure is predicted to advance with revolutionary ideas being developed such as the Fog Tower. This skyscraper structure, proposed by Alberto Fernández and Susana Ortega, would be an impressive height that could be marvelled at from far and wide off of the coast of Huasco, Chile. All the while it would be collecting water from the thick, unique fog type called ‘camanchaca’.



PlayPumpThe PlayPump is an invention created by the South African engineer Ronnie Stuiver. It is essentially a piece of play equipment usually located at schools, used in arid regions to increase water supply by reaching deep underground to access clean water supplies in the groundwater storage. The simple design of the PlayPump consists of a roundabout that is connected to an underground water pump. The spinning motion of the roundabout pumps water from underground and brings it to higher levels for collection. However, there has also been criticism of the PlayPump’s efficiency, with The Gaurdianlabelling it Africa’s ‘not-so-magic roundabout’.


Top inventions for increasing water quality…


WATERisLIFE’s Drinkable Book:

Drinkable book

This nifty invention, introduced by the charity organisation WATERisLIFE, has gained a lot of publicity due to its simplicity which is the key to its success. As well as being a written manual filled with useful water safety tips, these tips are printed on scientifically advanced filter paper. Therefore this makes the product multi-functional as both a guide for water safety and an enhancer of water quality. Due to its simplicity and multi-purpose characteristic and affordability, this book is hugely popular in developing countries.


LUV Water:

Invented by students at Carnegie Mellon University, LUV water is created through a low-cost, self-powered water system through the use of UV-LED lights which are powered via a motor. This motor creates a crucial rotational motion, which is powered by the pressure exerted from the weight of the water itself. This ingenious device causes the killing of 99.9% of water pathogens, therefore deeming the water safe to drink.



Essentially a thick straw, the LifeStraw is an invention also commended on its simplicity. Through sucking on the straw, water enters a simple filtering system before reaching the mouth as fresh and unpolluted water. This quenches thirst with no threat of contracting dangerous water-borne diseases.



So, it’s fair to say Malthus Boserup was right – necessity is definitely the mother of invention. When the world comes knocking, scientists never fail to come up with some sort of answer, the only question that seems to be overlooked is how long can these solutions last? Can we survive on adaptation alone, or will mitigation become essential? Let us know your thoughts! Tweet me @EveAtNotch