Money Flowing To Water Technologies, Slowly

By Ellisa Feinstein

It’s no surprise that a good percentage of companies represented at the recent GoingGreen conference provide wastewater treatment solutions. In 2009, these technologies grabbed 36% ($51 million) of the total early stage venture investments ($149 million) in water, according to a 2010 report on water innovation by the Cleantech Group.

As noted in my previous post, compared to the wider scheme of green technology investments, $149 million is a pittance, with the total of investments in cleantech rolling in at $5.6 billion in 2009. Fortunately, as represented at GoingGreen, there are venture capitalists, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) investing in water technologies, as well as start-ups and more established companies providing groundbreaking solutions to address water challenges.

One of those companies is Microvi Biotech, which removes pollutants (e.g. nitrates) in water treatment using biotechnology (e.g. organisms) and as a result, removes the sludge byproduct.  Likewise, APTwater (a KPCB portfolio company) is tackling wastewater treatment with an oxidation technology that allows for water re-use.

Clean Water Technology CEO Ariel Lechter, GoingGreen

Similar to Microvi Biotech, Clean Water Technology is also tackling wastewater treatment and the sludge problem, but differently. Clean WaterTechnology uses its Gas Energy Mixing System for treating wastewater, to create a drier sludge to have less hauling and higher processing value.

Besides wastewater treatment, an influx of other solutions are necessary to tackle increasing water issues.  There are a number of other start-ups, and established companies, like GE and Siemens, that are offering water technologies. According to Henrik Skov Laursen, the executive director of Grundfos Water Technology Center of ABC, more technologies, specifically cost-effective ones and membranes that “really work” in re-using and recycling water (safely) need to be deployed. Systems exist, Laursen mentions, but they are expensive.

As water becomes a hotter topic, and a more lucrative commodity, like oil, more VC money is likely to be poured into this area of the greentech sector. In the meantime, as investments trickle in, surely but slowly, so will more promising start-ups.

Ellisa Feinstein has an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School. In addition to being passionate about water and other sustainability issues, she is an active urban cyclist and volunteer with San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Find her on Twitter at EllisaF.

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