The Future of Watertech is Proactive - And Canada Can Lead the Way

January 21, 2021

Welcome to the New Age of Watertech

Concerns around water supply, sanitation, and wastewater management have been woven into concepts of public health since the dawn of urbanization in the Bronze age (and probably earlier).  Water sanitation and public health are primary needs, and are key drivers of innovation in the watertech field. 

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed the whole water field into a fast moving, exciting new time in technology development.

Let’s call it the Proactive Age of Watertech - a time when we can envision more than reactively monitoring for contaminants, but actually getting ahead of the game and tracking a virus in real time.

LuminUltra: Setting the Pace

One company that is leading the way in this new proactive age is LuminUltra from Fredericton, New Brunswick. LuminUltra has recently released monitoring technology that can detect signs of COVID-19 in influent wastewater.

Why is this a game-changer? Wastewater epidemiology (the chemical analysis of pollutants and biomarkers in raw wastewater) is emerging as an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 - acting as an early warning system for public health.

Here’s the vision: what if you could proactively monitor influent wastewater for signs of COVID-19 infections in a nursing home (or dormitory, or prison, or school, or even whole municipalities) and know well ahead of time when to sound the alarm and introduce stricter health protocols or proactive treatments rather than waiting until traditional and invasive tests were done on a time-consuming per patient basis?

“For decades, we’ve advocated for the importance of proactive testing in identifying small problems before they become big issues. My mantra has always been ‘What gets measured gets managed’. We continue to develop technology that meets this mandate, ensuring we can help our customers stay ahead of threats to their people and their systems”.

Pat Whalen, CEO LuminUltra Technologies

That type of vision is what is driving the proactive age of watertech - creating solutions that are real time, responsive, data-driven, and yes, life-saving. Instead of just reactively finding and removing a contaminant, water technologists and watertech tools could proactively track down a virus, stopping it before it can spread further.

Virus on the Move, Meet an Industry on the Move

COVID-19, and viruses like it, are always on the move. They are mutating, spreading in populations, retreating, changing directions, and keeping scientists on their toes tracking down outbreaks and viral changes on a daily, even hourly basis. It’s a data and computing challenge as well as a health challenge.

In order to keep up, and, more to the point, stay ahead, Canadian water companies have to be equally as fast-moving and agile. Now more than ever, the industry has to pull on all its resources and jump into this proactive age.

The good news is that water industry leaders are doing this, and Canada is well positioned to take a further leadership role as this fast-moving, important technology comes to market.

Not only is the waterNEXT Cluster pulling together and energizing the industry across Canada through pan-Canadian outreach and publications, the Canadian Water Network has launched a national research-focused coalition of municipal utilities, researchers, public health agencies and government focused on how the water industry can play a part in protecting public health from COVID-19.

And while LuminUltra has focused on the pressing need presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, watertech companies across Canada are taking up the challenge with proactive solutions that address a range of health-related contaminants, from bacteria to microplastics:

  • Spartan Bioscience in Ottawa, Ontario has DNA testing technology for rapid COVID testing in water systems (pending approval from Health Canada).
  • MANTECH in Guelph, Ontario conducts water quality analysis for a broad range of parameters, including real time data for chemical and biochemical oxygen demand and natural organic matter monitoring.
  • Acuva Technologies in Burnaby, BC manufactures UV-LED disinfection systems that use a collimated beam of UV energy to inactivate waterborne pathogens directly and proactively.

The Proactive Age: Disruptive, Digital, Canadian

What these companies (and others) have in common with LuminUltra is the need for speed - an understanding that they have to reduce timelines - instead of taking weeks to detect a virus, it should take hours or even minutes, instead of taking years to develop testing protocols, it should take a few days or weeks.

The cycle of innovation in watertech has to speed up across the board, and the water industry in Canada is stepping up to make it happen. The recently published waterNEXT ecosystem map shows an exciting array of innovators with disruptive, proactive technologies across the value chain in multiple sub-sectors (eg. AI, robotics, machine learning, IoT technologies and platforms, digital analytics).

The Proactive Age of Watertech is here. It’s exciting, and it’s energizing innovation in water.

But it is also fast-moving, and the Canadian water industry must rise up to meet the challenge and be equally as fast.

Tides wait for no one.

Want to explore Canada’s water industry? Check out the waterNEXT Ecosystem Map, a data-driven, searchable map of Canada’s water organizations, companies and solution providers.

Download  “The Road to 2050 – Bridging the Gap Between Challenges and Solutions in Water” for a snapshot of the roadmaps and approaches that are guiding the water sector in BC.