Water-saving mechanism by Swedish entrepreneurs helps Mumbai restaurants save every drop

Updated: Jun 30, 2019, 08:41 IST | Anju Maskeri

An extreme water-saving mechanism invented by three Swedish entrepreneurs is helping Mumbai restaurants save every drop

Water-saving mechanism by Swedish entrepreneurs helps Mumbai restaurants save every drop
Founders Mikael Abbhagen, Kaj Mickos and Johan Nihlén

In 2016, when Stockholm-based entrepreneurs, professor Kaj Mickos, Mikael Abbhagen and Johan Nihlén launched a crowdfunding campaign for Altered, the world's most extreme water-saving nozzle, it was met with radio silence. "Nothing happened in the first three days. We were quite disappointed," writes Abbhagen, co-founder and design director at Altered, in an email interview. On the fourth day, the tide turned. Their video had suddenly gone viral on an American Facebook page called Now This Future, raking in 600K views. "We woke up one morning to find 500 emails in our inbox; 350 from India alone. Everyone wanted to know how they could order." Interested parties included royal families from the Emirates to conglomerates such as the Tata Group and Unilever. "We went from: 'Hey, we got this idea that we think can save water in California,' to suddenly having collaborations with global brands," says Abbhagen.

Today, the Altered nozzles have found a place in popular restaurants in the city such as Salt Water Café, Toast & Tonic, Taj Lands End, Meluha the Fern and Orchid Mumbai. What makes it a revolutionary concept is its ability to atomise water. "When it comes to old taps, everything is in maximum flow at all times. If you rinse stuff or wash your hands, you need much less water than filling a glass. Our technology makes it possible to use every single drop of water but it also increases the speed of the water." Technically, Altered breaks the water up into millions of droplets, thereby drastically increasing the surface area of the water. "So, even if we decrease the flow of water, your hands are always totally wet." While a regular old tap uses up to 10 litres per minute, the Altered nozzles — in mist mode — only uses 0.23 litres per minute. "That's a 98 per cent saving, with full functionality to wash your hands." Engineering the mechanism was tricky, he says. "Water is very, very sensitive. If there is a dent or crack, the shape of water will change. So, it takes high precision to manufacture. And you can bet that if there is a way for the water to go somewhere we don't want it to, it will find a way there." The product costs R2,900 on Indian e-commerce sites.

The Altered tap at Salt Water Cafe. Pic/Atul Kamble
The Altered tap at Salt Water Cafe. Pic/Atul Kamble

At Bandra's Salt Water Café, the Altered nozzles were installed a year ago. On an average, the restaurant uses anything between 10,000 to 15,000 litres of water a day, which is what made Vinod Shetty, head of operations, look for water-saving options. "The need was felt from the time when we had to call in for water tanks on a few occasions. And water tanks supply usually comes from borewells, which leads to further depletion of the groundwater level. Therefore, it was a conscious
decision to be able to save water as much as possible," he says. The taps work as an add-on to the existing taps, where it adjusts the flow by restricting the amount of water. Currently, the taps have been have been fitted in all the washrooms at the restaurant. "The amount of water used by the basin in the customer washroom has reduced by 90 per cent," says Shetty.

Meanwhile, the founders of Altered are working on a shower facility and hole tap fully integrated with their technologies. "People forget that this water has been pumped and transported, sometimes by truck. A lot of energy just goes to waste when you let it run down the drain."

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