Solutions for a Water-Deprived Planet

aspen water

The raging creeks and still snow-packed peaks of Aspen, Colorado don't outwardly suggest any hints of a global water crisis, but it provides a reflective backdrop for design students who arrived here this week to tackle what is certain to be the greatest challenge currently facing the planet: Water conservation.

As the finalists for the global INDEX: AIGA Aspen Design Challenge, these students designed campaigns and product concepts to solve issues around water use, safety and awareness. But the competition doesn't end with a trophy and a handshake: After intense workshops with design and business leaders in the idyllic alpine setting, they'll leave Aspen with business plans meant to bring the ideas to market.

Here's one example, from Ceren Bagatar of the Umea Institute of Design, Sweden: Emergency Water Purifier for Flood Conditions, a purification system made specifically for the days after floods when clean water is nearly impossible to come by. (You'll find links to more of our favorite projects from the competition at the bottom of this post.)

 

aspen-water2

INDEX: AIGA Aspen Design Challenge builds upon the legacy of the International Design Conference at Aspen, which lured the world's biggest design stars high into the Rockies for decades starting in the 1950's to discuss the role of design in improving well-being. The current competition, which is co-sponsored by international journalism and science network Circle of Blue, came after a discussion at yet another mountaintop conference, the 2007 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when the panel named Designing Water's Future determined water to be the most far-reaching problem for the planet. Five million people die each year due to contaminated drinking water, and two-thirds of the world's population will live in areas of water stress within the next 20 years.

Branding guru Brian Collins was among those at the World Economic Forum two years ago who began incubating this idea. "The reason I joined INDEX: and AIGA to do this was to show how young designers can really tackle important social and ecological problems, and develop smart, workable, real-world solutions," Collins said between sessions.

The students are also learning from advisors like Deborah Adler, whose ClearRx prescription system redesign, created while she was an MFA student at the School of Visual Arts in New York, was eventually adapted by Target. The focus on real-world execution also demonstrates a shift in the paradigm for traditional concept-driven competitions. "Frankly, while I am a big champion of the ambition the expression represents, it's time to move beyond 'design thinking,'" says Collins. "Given the challenges now facing the world, it's time for 'design doing.'"

The finalists--after being sufficiently prepped by their new mentors and, we hope, at least one hike to see the Maroon Bells--will travel to Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December.

View more INDEX: AIGA Aspen Design Challenge winners:
Oli: Products That Reduce Water Consumption Behaviorally
Every Drop Counts: A Low-Cost Monitor That Tracks Water Usage
Rethink Your Green: Helps Californians Reconsider Their Landscaping
VeggiePatch: A Low-Impact Way for Households to Grow Food

Related Stories:
How to Conjure Water From Thin Air
SOLAQUA: Solar-Powered Water Purification for the Masses
Inflatable Curtain Forces Short Showers, Saves Water

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5 Comments

  • David Osedach

    I hope they keep coming up with good solutions. I can forsee the possibility of water wars and energy wars in the futue.

  • Harry Otsuji

    Like oil, until recently, the world became used to cheap availablity of fresh water resource until the growth of population accelerated to the point, where demand began to exceed readily availablity of supply at a cheap price. I live in Hawaii, where we are surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean. The problem is that it's filled with salt water. In the '90's I was developing a 4,000 acre rural residential subdivision on Kohala Mountain on the Big island of Hawaii, and the only source of fresh water to support it was to drill wells to a depth of 1,500 feet to access the acquifer. The cost of residential water from this source was about four times that of the same source at sea level.

    As my civil engineer advised, it is not a matter of whether or not we are running out of resources such as oil and water; it is just a matter of what we are willimg to pay for these resources, at the point of where we want of have it.

    Here again we are contending with the illogic of a zero sum game. Those who believe this, for their own selfish motives, advocate such things as abortion and other means of population control, so that the remaining folk can maintain a living standard to which they have become accustomed at a cheap price.

    The fact is that the human potential to solve problems such as this is almost unlimited, if left to the unfettered creativity of the human mind, unbound from the control of Draconian power of tyrannical government that doesn't create a thing.

    The irony is that government is mandating the direction of that creative potential, by funneling money resources where bureaucrats, are motivated by ideology, and not knowledge, scientific or otherwise. At the same time, the creative forces become captive of those providing the financial resources.

    If the creative people don't fight for an environment of freedom and liberty where creativity can reach full potential, then we'll all become slaves to dependency and the triumph of mediocrity

  • Harry Otsuji

    Like oil, until recently, the world became used to cheap availablity of fresh water resource until the growth of population accelerated to the point, where demand began to exceed readily availablity of supply at a cheap price. I live in Hawaii, where we are surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean. The problem is that it's filled with salt water. In the '90's I was developing a 4,000 acre rural residential subdivision on Kohala Mountain on the Big island of Hawaii, and the only source of fresh water to support it was to drill wells to a depth of 1,500 feet to access the acquifer. The cost of residential water from this source was about four times that of the same source at sea level.

    As my civil engineer advised, it is not a matter of whether or not we are running out of resources such as oil and water; it is just a matter of what we are willimg to pay for these resources, at the point of where we want of have it.

    Here again we are contending with the illogic of a zero sum game. Those who believe this, for their own selfish motives, advocate such things as abortion and other means of population control, so that the remaining folk can maintain a living standard to which they have become accustomed at a cheap price.

    The fact is that the human potential to solve problems such as this is almost unlimited, if left to the unfettered creativity of the human mind, unbound from the control of Draconian power of tyrannical government that doesn't create a thing.

    The irony is that government is mandating the direction of that creative potential, by funneling money resources where bureaucrats, are motivated by ideology, and not knowledge, scientific or otherwise. At the same time, the creative forces become captive of those providing the financial resources.

    If the creative people don't fight for an environment of freedom and liberty where creativity can reach full potential, then we'll all become slaves to dependency and the triumph of mediocrity

  • Harry Otsuji

    Like oil, until recently, the world became used to cheap availablity of fresh water resource until the growth of population accelerated to the point, where demand began to exceed readily availablity of supply at a cheap price. I live in Hawaii, where we are surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean. The problem is that it's filled with salt water. In the '90's I was developing a 4,000 acre rural residential subdivision on Kohala Mountain on the Big island of Hawaii, and the only source of fresh water to support it was to drill wells to a depth of 1,500 feet to access the acquifer. The cost of residential water from this source was about four times that of the same source at sea level.

    As my civil engineer advised, it is not a matter of whether or not we are running out of resources such as oil and water; it is just a matter of what we are willimg to pay for these resources, at the point of where we want of have it.

    Here again we are contending with the illogic of a zero sum game. Those who believe this, for their own selfish motives, advocate such things as abortion and other means of population control, so that the remaining folk can maintain a living standard to which they have become accustomed at a cheap price.

    The fact is that the human potential to solve problems such as this is almost unlimited, if left to the unfettered creativity of the human mind, unbound from the control of Draconian power of tyrannical government that doesn't create a thing.

    The irony is that government is mandating the direction of that creative potential, by funneling money resources where bureaucrats, are motivated by ideology, and not knowledge, scientific or otherwise. At the same time, the creative forces become captive of those providing the financial resources.

    If the creative people don't fight for an environment of freedom and liberty where creativity can reach full potential, then we'll all become slaves to dependency and the triumph of mediocrity