The growing pressures on water resources around the world are concerning. Fortunately, there is also growing public awareness of these pressures, and that awareness is driving a desire for more sustainable options, especially in people’s homes and workplaces. The Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) heard from Sabine Stuiver, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Hydraloop Systems, a recent NWP member, about the growing business opportunities in this segment and the interest in decentralised options to help create sustainable cities.
‘The hydrological cycle has worked for billions of years, but it is now under strain. The basic challenges around too much and too little water are massive. On top of this, there are issues such as climate change, population growth, the ecological costs of desalination, depleting groundwater levels and so on. It is very complex.
Our vision at Hydraloop is that every building has its own water source – lightly contaminated grey water. This can be from sinks, showers, and washing machines. It can also include water from air conditioning, or from heat pumps. My heat pump produces 50 litres of water a day. This is very clean water, but it normally goes down the drain.
This is not just our view. There is growing interest in sustainable cities and in decentralisation, including initiatives such as the 50L Home Coalition, which is geared towards decentralised recycling of water at home and reduced water usage. This trend is tremendous.
It brings the obvious benefits around using less water, but there are other aspects too. For example, we see peaks in wastewater because we all tend to shower at around the same time of day. If you can collect and treat that water, there will be no peak. There are a lot of benefits to Hydraloop systems. These even include energy saving in countries with relatively cold winter climates as the warmth in the wastewater stays inside the building.
To respond to the need for reducing our water consumption, we started thinking about producing a consumer product, and preferably one that would not require maintenance for at least a year. So, the design goals were: a filterless system with very low maintenance, a small footprint, and a great looking product.
At the same time, we see that attitudes are changing. How the value of water is perceived depends on where you live, but we are seeing that it is changing very fast everywhere, and for the good. This has been exacerbated by Covid-19, which has made people more aware of the value of water and the importance of hygiene and sanitation.
We are seeing a change in consumers, especially the younger generation – they understand. They wonder why we are flushing our toilets with drinking water. You don’t need to explain the issues to them. So there is definitely a real change going on. We are all on the same page.
We also see that water utilities are changing their minds. If they look ahead to the not too distant future and see that they will have many more customers to serve, they will see that their business model will not work anymore. At first they may have viewed water saving equipment as competing with them, but as they have the obligation to supply water, they now see that it can help them in places where supplies are limited.
This opens the way for different approaches. For example, we are even thinking of ‘water as a service’ (WaaS), where a utility or municipality places systems in homes and meters the recycled water, charging a different price to that for tap water.
The other crucial area is to do with building codes. We have been doing a lot of missionary work on this. We promote our vision that every building should now be built water recycle-ready, in the same way that energy saving devices are included in building codes.
In terms of our business, we are scaling up. For example, we have already opened a daughter company in America, and we are establishing a joint venture company in the Middle East. We have around 60 partners in four continents, and are talking to some very large companies for future partnerships. We will also be looking for production facilities on other continents. One of the main items on our list is to reduce the cost price of our Hydraloop system so that, hopefully, it will be half the current price, maybe even less, within five or 10 years.
Further, we will set up the Hydraloop Foundation very soon to support projects for the very poorest in the world that do not have access to water.
I have known about NWP for quite some time. We are now at a stage where we are really starting to go international, so we need to network more widely. NWP has a lot to offer here and, after less than three months membership, we are already experiencing what a great network it is. We are already benefitting from it.
Through NWP, I have already attended four or five interesting webinars, made some very good connections, and was invited to speak at one or two webinars in the USA. I ask myself, why didn’t I do this before?
Looking ahead, in the case of solar panels, for example, where energy saving measures have been stipulated by governments, we see that it has helped tremendously. Most building companies will only build more sustainably if they have to.
If we talk about sustainable buildings and smart cities, water is often a forgotten element. This really needs to change – and it is changing.’