Water Treatment On Wheels Showcased By Jeremy Renner

The new Jeremy Renner do-it-yourself series Rennervations puts the spotlight on the global water crisis by going local. His team salvages a massive truck and repurposes it as a mobile water treatment system. That’s not the only big vehicle in the series, but it’s the part that sailed across the CleanTechnica radar on account of its connection to the task of gathering enough water to keep a household going.

To catch the whole Rennervations series, tune into Disney+ starting April 12.

A Need For Water Treatment, On Wheels

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that Rennervations showcases an eclectic mix of four repurposed vehicles and locations. The other three involve a mobile music bus in Chicago for the after-school organization BASE, a bus-to-dance studio conversion for the foster care organization Casa Hogar of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, and a recreation center on wheels for the Reno-based organization Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Northern Nevada.

Those three projects set up a theme, which makes the water treatment episode pop out as the only part of the series that goes beyond child and youth activities to address a basic need for the entire household.

CleanTechnica had a chance to speak with Renner’s business partner and lifelong friend Rory Milikin earlier this week to find out why they included a water treatment truck in the mix. The episode takes place in the state of Rajasthan in India, a region where water resources are stretched to the bone.

The following conversation is lightly edited for clarity and flow.

CleanTechnica: What drew you to the water topic?

Milikin: We’re dads. Our strongest bonds are our kids. So, what can we do in India for kids? Learning and listening to people there, we wanted to do a project that has some longevity to it.

Anil [Kapoor, who co-hosts the episode] talked about heavily salinated water. We listened carefully to [local] groups, to see if we can do this. Could we do a filtration truck?

CleanTechnica: If you could do a whole series on the environment, what topics would you focus on?

Milikin: Solar! Jeremy has a huge solar array on his roof. It’s one of the largest in Los Angeles. So clean energy, recycling, and stopping things from being taken to the scrap yard.

CleanTechnica: What did you learn from the series?

Milikin: My takeaway is very simple. I didn’t realize what a difference you can make by doing just a little. For example, Big Brothers and Big Sisters opened my eyes.

Jeremy’s superpower is seeing what others don’t. When it comes to helping people you can make a difference. Seek out organizations, and help them.

Women Are Dealing With Water Scarcity

Renner and Milikin worked with the nonprofit organization Uva Jagriti Sansthan in India to develop a plan for the Rajasthan water treatment truck, and that is a good illustration of taking on a project that seems insurmountable.

Water scarcity is a chronic problem in the state. No rivers traverse Rajasthan, so most of its water comes from rainfall that feeds the underground water table. In some areas, small earth-built dams called johads are built to help catch more water and allow it to percolate underground. However, a water-poor monsoon season will have a ripple effect on groundwater resources throughout the year.

In 2016 the India Water Portal warned that the situation is getting worse. “The ground water table is going down at a rate of approximately one metre per year,” they noted. “The over exploitation of ground water and lack of dilution though recharge is resulting into degradation of ground water quality in many areas,” they added.

The Water Portal also credited women in the region with adopting a wide range of tactics to conserve water. “Bathing on a string cot so that they can reuse the water falling through, wearing bone bangles wrist upwards to the armpit so that only the hands have to be washed delivering babies on sand to avoid soiling clothes and cleaning utensils with hot sand” are among the water-saving techniques listed by the Water Portal.

Women have also organized to preserve potable water resources. The Water Portal describes a pond that was desalted, enlarged and protected by a women’s committee in 2015. “The women’s committee managing the pond has barred people from taking bath near the pond. Nor the animals are allowed to later around it,” the Water Portal notes.

In another recent example, women in the village of Akhadhana desilted and recharged 100 beris, which are traditional wells built below the bed of a pond. A beri can continue to provide fresh water after the pond dries up. According to the Water Portal, the beris in Akhadhana are 200 years old.

Water Treatment (And More Water) For All

To be clear, Jeremy Renner’s water treatment truck will not solve the problem of not enough water over an entire region. However, it does illustrate how small scale, mobile technology solutions can make a big difference, one community at a time.

The water supply end of things could also lend itself to a technology solution, though that remains to be seen. If you are guessing atmospheric water harvesting technology, that’s a good guess. That has crossed the CleanTechnica radar in various forms, including an on-board water harvester for electric vehicles (see our complete coverage here).

The Israeli company Watergen is behind the EV water harvester. Its technology also incorporates a water treatment system, and the company has been bringing it to India and other parts of the world.

Here in the US, Watergen has piloted its GEN-M AWG atmospheric water generation and water treatment system at the only store serving the rural Hard Rock Community of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. The system was installed in 2021.

From a concrete pad next to the store, a pilot project from Watergen Inc. is providing a new water source to a community where access to water has been limited by drought, lack of infrastructure, and coal mining,” Native News Online observed in July of 2021.

They cited Nick Harris, Watergen’s vice president of sales and marketing, who explained that it was difficult to get the equipment to the remote location.

“It’s certainly not the easiest place that we could’ve picked..but it was the one that we felt was probably the most deserving and would probably test the technology in the best way possible,” he explained, adding that “If it works there, it’ll work everywhere else.”

The next challenge is getting enough renewable, sustainable energy on board to operate systems like the GEN-M. The Hard Rock case illustrates the consequences of prioritizing fossil energy over water resources.

As described by Native News, the water conservation organization Tó Nizhóní Ání (TNA) has been working to protect the remaining water resources of the Navajo Aquifer, which has been impacted by  coal mining operations.

Follow me on Trainwreck Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Find me on Spoutible: @TinaMCasey or LinkedIn @TinaMCasey or Mastodon @Casey or Post:  @tinamcasey

Image (screenshot): Water treatment truck visits a village in India courtesy of Disney+ via YouTube.


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