What kind of water do billionaires drink when they’re thirsty? My original guess would be some highly rare oxygenated mountain spring water that’s been helicoptered directly from the alps and then quadruple-filtered through gold strainers that have been engraved by artisan monks. But Bill Gates just drank water that was recycled and processed from human waste.
I guess you could say he’s putting his mouth where his money is. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he helped fund the creation of the Omniprocessor by the bioengineering firm Janicki Bioenergy, which turns sewage sludge into useable electricity and drinkable water within minutes. I’ve written before about how water and energy are inextricably linked, but could this be the ultimate expression of the water/energy nexus?
Bill explains more of the background on how the Omniprocessor works, and the need for an innovation like this on his blog. The ultimate goal of the project is not only to bring safe drinking water to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access, but also to reinvent how sewage treatment plants function on a global level. It’s so exciting to think about how this technology could revolutionize how we think about water for developing and developed nations.
And of course, since this is Bill Gates we’re talking about, there’s another level to this story than the invention itself. He writes how this is also an example of philanthropists providing the seed money to draw intelligent people to work on our world’s biggest problems, with the goal of eventually creating a self-supporting industry. Now that is a dynamic proposition.
So once again, Bill Gates has helped raised awareness and taken a cause to the next level. While the water industry is always proactively expanding on research and development, it’s inspiring to see the private sector making a push as well. I’d be happy to raise a glass with Mr. Gates any time to celebrate.