Water Is California’s Most Precious Commodity These Days, As The State Is Enduringwhat scientists are calling years.
State officials say more than 1,200 wells have dried up this year, about 50% more than the same period last year. California’s water crisis is most severe in the San Joaquin Valley, the nation’s most productive agricultural region. This year’s snow and rain are not enough to replenish the already depleted groundwater supply.
Now an Australian company has tapped into an innovative potential solution to the crisis by “growing” water suitable for drinking, agriculture and any other use.
“We like to say that, simply put, we grow water,” said Terry Paul, co-founder and CEO of Australia-based Botanical Water Technologies. BWT has partnered with Ingomar Packing Company of California.
Ingomar turns tomatoes grown in the San Joaquin Valley into ketchup and tomato paste. The natural by-product of that process is water, which till now used to go down the drain. “We evaporate a lot of tomatoes to make ketchup. And that evaporative condensate is what we capture. Then we run it through our purification process.” Paule said.
It all happens in a self-contained unit, which fits inside a shipping container. “From one factory alone, we can make 250 million gallons of water in a period of 90 days,” said AJ Priester, BWT’s chief commercial officer. Clean water can then flow through pipelines or be delivered to municipalities, depleting reservoirs, farms, industry and even domestic water tanks.
So, one may wonder what exactly does water made from tomatoes taste like? “Water is the water I’m drinking. It’s absolutely clean. It tastes really, really great water,” Paule said.
Indeed, BWT water was declared Australia’s 2019 Beverage of the Year.
BWT is working to provide water to many thirsty cities in California.
The cost of each purification unit is approximately $1 million. It can go wherever a crop is undergoing processing, then move to another area.
BWT has also created a water exchange, where corporations who want to give back to their communities or use up a lot of water can buy clean water and gift it to areas in need.
“Plant-to-water” technology has existed in Australia for over a decade. Paule said it began with grapes during the winemaking process and has since spread to almost any other fruit or vegetable one can think of, including sugarcane.
Paule said he plans to take the technology to India soon, where clean water is scarce. He calls it “game-changing” and “a huge invention for the world”.
BWT hopes to play a major role in mitigating the world’s water problem by providing clean and safe drinking water to 100 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2025.
Here in America, it starts with the tomato—a drop in the bucket that can become a fountain of clean water for a thirsty world.