World Water Day 2014: Water and Energy

March 21, 2014

The management of freshwater, the most vital resource for daily life, is imperative especially for those living in impoverished areas around the world. This year’s UN World Water Day focuses on the interdependence between water and energy, another valuable aspect of the resource. This correlation was also shown by selected awarded entries in the “empowering people. Award“.

According to figures published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), 1.4 billion people do not have access to electrical energy and over 2.5 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking. In areas where resources are scarce, innovation is in demand. The Award identified two outstanding solutions that used river water to generate this precious commodity. Both winners use these river waters to generate electricity in quite different ways. The solution River Ice is designed to combat the spoilage of fish, perishable food or medicine due to inadequate cooling methods. According to figures provided by the WHO an average of 30% of all food is spoiled due to this in developing countries. The small, yet highly innovative, solution River Ice is a Garman river turbine directly connected to an open refrigeration compressor. Polyethylene bags with filtered water produce ice blocks through the energy of the currant. Independent of conventional fuels, the device has a typical power output is 300 – 500 W which can be also used for house lightning and cell phone recharging, for example. 

No less in innovative prowess is a further winner of the Award: The Rotor. This solution is a small floating hydro power plant, which facilitates the generation of electricity from the current of a river. A vertical axis water wheel is mounted in the center of a circular tube and, induced by river flow this wheel then turns like a turbine. The rotational energy is transferred by the axis to a wheel where several conventional bicycle dynamos transform the kinetic energy into electricity. 

As with River Ice, power is then supplied to people living in the proximity of rivers. Greatly improving living conditions, this solution illustrates how small technical innovations can have a great impact on lives.

Both solutions exist in form of prototypes and are currently under the process of further technological development. The “empowering people. Award” has been an encouraging motivation for the developer teams to go ahead.

Further details on the UN World Water Day can be found here:

Caroline Weimann
Caroline Weimann

Caroline Weimann is member of the “empowering people. Award” team at the Siemens Stiftung (foundation). She studied International Law, Economics and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London as well as Languages and Literature at the University of Oxford. Before joining the Siemens Stiftung, she worked on health and development issues at the European Commission and at a consultancy firm for non-profit organizations.


Basic Needs & Social Entrepreneurship