Although over 70 percent of the Earth is covered in water, over 96 percent of that is salty. As anyone who’s gotten a mouthful of ocean water knows, we can’t drink that, and bathing in it is a big no-no. So, we are dependent on the limited fresh water supply, 70 percent of which is used for agriculture. That doesn’t leave much for us, so water conservation has been a hot topic for years, especially in places like Southern California that are suffering from droughts.
Companies all over the world have been coming out with water-efficient faucets and toilets to help, but they have barely made a dent in mitigating the problem, that is, until one Japanese entrepreneur set their mind to the problem. In 2009, a Japanese start-up created a water-saving nozzle that is purported to reduce water usage by up to 95 percent. This could be a life-changing and world-changing invention.
The Osaka-based start-up DG TAKANO invented their novel product “Bubble90” in 2008 and have since been recognized with an array of awards and were showcased on Japanese variety show,”Ga-chiri Monday!” All of this attention is well deserved; with this invention, you could go from using the average 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water a day, to using only 0.5 liters (0.13 gallons).
With such high efficiency, you’d think it would involve some monster of a device, yet the nozzle is just a small piece that can be attached to almost any normal faucet.
▼ That small nozzle is an intricate piece of metalwork.
The device is designed to force air into the water stream, creating bubbles in the flowing water, and then shooting it out in pulses. It was inspired by the bidet feature on some Japanese toilets.
▼ The tap water is in blue, the air is in orange.
▼ Since the Bubble90 works with flowing water streams, the bubbles look like this, a pocket of air surrounded by water– decreasing the amount of water in each droplet.
You may think that bubbly water wouldn’t clean very efficiently, but the water is high-pressure and although it seems “soft,” it rinses soap off hands and grime off dishes as easily, if not better than traditional faucets, the water emitted by the nozzle said to resemble a succession of small waves on a very fast, small scale.
▼ Scale this to the kitchen sink level and you can imagine how the leftovers on your plate could easily be washed away.
The Bubble90 website presents a graphic showing the efficiency of a normal tap faucet vs. a general water-saving faucet vs. a Bubble90 faucet. The study measured the amount of water used to clean some dishes (depicted in blue) and the cleaning power (depicted by the brown line).
▼ According to their study, not only did the Bubble90 out-clean the other two faucets, it also used significantly less water in the process.
Reduction in water usage, and thus a reduction in water usage fees, has been proven in several test runs in establishments around Japan. For example, an izakaya (dining bar) chain added the Bubble90 to their kitchen sinks, and saw a huge difference in their water bills, going from 2 million yen (US$16,500) a year to 1.5 million yen ($12,500). The shops saw an average of 20-35 percent decrease in water usage.
Another impressive example is of a ramen shop chain, which cut its annual water bill nearly in half, from 1.2 million yen to 660,000 yen ($10,000 to $5,500). The monetary benefit (and water reduction) was apparent almost instantly.
The company offers a few different nozzles for different purposes, such as one for hand-washing, which has the highest reduction of up to 95 percent, but no lower than 80 percent. High-power nozzles, such as those used in industrial kitchens, see a 40-90 percent water-reduction rate.
▼ Different styles to fit different needs.
The nozzles are not only small, easy to use and adjust to preferred pressure levels, but they are easy to maintain and are expected to last for at least 10 years before they need to be replaced. While they are currently used mostly for businesses with really high water usage, there should be a home-use version available soon too.
▼ You can see the tiny bubbles running over this person’s hand.
Even cutting water usage down by 20 or 30 percent is huge, let alone 90 percent, especially when you multiply that by the rest of the world. This kind of air-infusing nozzle could be the future of all faucet technology and a huge player in water-conservation across the globe.
The success of the Bubble90 is also a big step for Japanese start-ups in general, which are kind of uncommon and not well supported. Takano’s drive, persistence and ingenuity will inevitably inspire young entrepreneurs like himself. The press and popularity of DG Takano could bode well for other up-and-coming small companies too.
▼ We’ll leave you with a promotional video where you can see the water in action.