OUR Lifeline is in the Race Against Day Zero

Aarthi Gunasekaran
5 min readSep 4, 2023


Our World, day by day is getting closer to the ominous prospect of Day Zero, where our water supply runs out.

National Geographic: Discusses places around the world that are in drought and are raising demand in a national water crisis.

As we prepare for this day, researchers are developing solutions, including The University of Texas who broke the news with their recent groundbreaking solution — a portable water purification device.

This article will explore how this device could give us hope to revive the planet against manmade global warming.

The Impending Water Crisis:

  • Ever since the breakthrough of the First Industrial Revolution (1765: Coal), mankind has never been the same. We have exploited our resources to excel in infrastructure and innovation. As our cities began to expand, we decided to build up.


At the end of the day, we only built for ourselves. Our ignorance is to blame for what the world has become today.

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

In short, developing our society, physically, has damaged our environment.

Click Here to learn more about the origins of Global Warming.

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Though there is progress being made for accessible clean water, from 1.1 billion in 2000 to 771 million in 2020, there are still women spending an estimated 200 million hours carrying water every day to their households (Reid).

Regions such as the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia are grappling with severe water scarcity. In Africa, the demand for water is growing faster than in any other part of the world.

Based on the image above, it is interesting that LDCs, Least Developing Countries, are regions with the most amount of water stress.

This may be how these countries are growing the fastest.

This means that there are industrial pressures put on these regions in order to sustain homes for their residents. Rapid Urbans lead to unplanned and rushed infrastructure.

Photo by Yusuf Onuk on Unsplash

As World Resources Institute writers Samantha Kuzma, Liz Saccoccia, and Marlena Chertock write “By 2050, water demand in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to skyrocket by 163% — 4 times the rate of change compared to Latin America, the second-highest region, which is expected to see a 43% increase in water demand.”

Africa is at the dire end of change in their country; however, efforts of altering their region’s inefficient water infrastructure and management “threaten” their economy — and will tarnish their title of one of the fastest growing regions.

Even worse: Racing Against Time: Cape Town

Photo by Marlin Clark on Unsplash

Particularly, in the notorious Cape Town have been suffering as they are scarily close to the count down to Day Zero. In fact, there are only 3 taps open for all the residents in the area.

On days when the taps do not work, residents fetch water from nearby ponds to cook, drink, and shower for their families.

The inefficient water management makes things worse: Millions of liters are lost every day despite water shortages due to leakages (BBC News).


Maybe our artificial application of water irrigation is not as efficient as we thought it would be.

The millions of liters that were wasted could have been utilized for the families that are in need.

It’s time to rethink our water pipes. Click here

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash


Introducing the UT Portable Water Purification Device:

Photo: Courtesy of the University of Texas

This 3D-printed device includes a “branched,” foam-encased electrode similar to a tree’s root system. The electrodes attract E. coli cells which are then electrified.

The advantage of using the foam-encased electrode is that it costs less than 2 dollars which makes the device susceptible for commercial use.

What is an electrode?

An Electrode is similar to a bridge which helps electricity or electrical signals move throughout different parts of the system.

It is usually made of metal. Electrodes are used from powering electronic devices to being able to measure your heartbeat.

In short, it is a connector that allows electricity to flow or signals to be observed.

Game-Changing Technology

The portable filter systems that are available have significant flaws.

Disinfecting pills can release harmful oxidants in water, the famous, reverse osmosis systems require high water pressure and solar steaming which is not the best suitable system for natural disasters; however, with the electrode cup “a person under a boil-water notice could power the device with their car” as well as a DC-AC converter or solar panels (Cobler).

Collaboration and Future Prospects:

Now, researchers are searching for ways to commercialize this filter with directions on how to remove and insert the foam-encased electrodes.

In conclusion, the water crisis we are facing is an urgent call for innovative solutions. UT Austin Researchers are an example of innovators racing against time to help provide clean water for those in need.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Works Cited

Chertock, Samantha Kuzma Liz Saccoccia, Marlena. “25 Countries, Housing One-quarter of the Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress.” World Resources Institute, www.wri.org/insights/highest-water-stressed-countries.

Cobler, Nicole. “UT Researchers Simplify Water Purification.” Axios, 9 Aug. 2023, www.axios.com/local/austin/2023/08/09/ut-researchers-simplify-water-purification.

Reid, Kathryn. “Global Water Crisis: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help.” World Vision, Mar. 2023, www.worldvision.org/clean-water-news-stories/global-water-crisis-facts.

“South African Town Running Out of Water — BBC News.” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=26_D55h6qO8.



Aarthi Gunasekaran

A highly motivated high school student passionate in delving deep into biomedical, mechanical, and agricultural engineering and through real-world experience.