2023 Insider Info: Did Pinterest Actually Expose the Future of Water?

What will the Future of Water look like in 2023? Predicting the future is a difficult exercise to run unless you have some insider information. The good news is that thanks to its nearly 400 million users and its unique positioning in the social media game, Pinterest actually has quite a bunch of data to get an accurate glimpse of the future. And for the first time in their “Pinterest Predicts” history, they have something to say about water. What exactly? Let’s find out.

This is one of the sections of my deep dive into water and wastewater treatment!

Key Learnings:

The main trend Pinterest predicts for the Future of Water revolves around rainwater harvesting. Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting, storing, and using rainwater for irrigation and other purposes. Here are three key things to know about rainwater harvesting:

  • It can help conserve water: Rainwater harvesting can help reduce demand for treated, piped water, which is a finite resource. By using rainwater for irrigation and other purposes, we can reduce the amount of water we need to extract from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.
  • It can reduce flooding: Harvesting rainwater and storing it in cisterns, tanks, or other reservoirs can help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that flows into streets, gutters, and other drainage systems. This can help reduce the risk of flooding and erosion, especially in urban areas with a lot of impervious surfaces like roads, sidewalks, and buildings.
  • Rainwater harvesting is one of the levers to better balance the Water Cycle by helping to smoothen out the two extremes: too much and too little water.

What does Pinterest know about the Future of Water?

There’s one single behavior of Pinterest users that enables foreseeing the future. Think of it, do you know someone that’s into do-it-yourself or handcraft stuff? Before starting a new project, they would browse for ideas, and putting them together on a platform like Pinterest is pretty convenient for assembling a mood board.

So, if you were to look into that board, you would somehow see the future and sense which kind of project they’re up to next.

Now, let’s upscale that. Imagine you’re Pinterest, and you can look into the boards of a little less than 400 million users. Now, you not only know that I may want to build a studio in my garage, but you also know what everyone’s up to in the next months and years!

Over the past three years, Pinterest has an 80% prediction accuracy

And so, every year, Pinterest gathers that information and publishes it in a prediction report.

Over the past three years, they ended up being right in about 80% of their insights, which is, you’d agree with me, a sizeable hit rate!

I know what you think, though, that’s probably great for designers, architects, or wedding planners, much less of an interesting prospect for water professionals or investors, right?

Pinterest predicts “Rainscapes” in 2023

Well, until this year, because one of the trends they spotted is actually pretty accurate for us.

In their report, the Pinterest folks called it “Rainscapes.”
What it tells is that Boomers and Gen X all over the globe will invest in rainwater harvesting, rain barrels, and drought-tolerant landscaping for natural ways to make their homes more sustainable.

They’ve started looking into it, and we’re discussing here trend development between +35% and +385% – arguably, something’s happening.

And so what? Well, I’d say that trend is threefold.

1. A booming market for small scale rainwater harvesting

First, straight off the bat, if you’re a company into B2C rainwater harvesting or even small-scale B2B approaches, help yourself; there’s a market.

But I’m pretty sure you didn’t need me to find out exactly that, so let’s unfold the second consequence: it’s proof people have started embracing climate change adaptation.

2. An emerging category for climate change adaptation

We’re no longer talking here of big guys far away having to reduce their carbon impact so the planet can stop heating up.

We’re talking of actual end-users, noticing that their access to water may be reduced in the future, that probably already experienced it during the summer of 2022, and for whom the stat saying that anytime soon two-third of humanity will live in water-scarce areas suddenly became much more tangible.

If you’re rich enough to own your home and invest in its sustainability, the trend Pinterest spotted makes a lot of sense: rather than waiting for someone to guarantee your access to water, you’d better do it yourself.

But what if you were just renting, living in a building, or simply laboring from paycheck to paycheck; wouldn’t you still want some water security for your future? Of course, you would.

A category that needs politicians, utilities, and private actors to sit together

So, developing a mid-scale collective solution for your community would make a lot of sense. Meaning that politicians, utilities, and private companies would be well-inspired to sit together in 2023 and roll out the distributed water management of the future.

In a nutshell, rainwater harvesting, greywater use cases, and even onsite water reuse belong to that exact same trend we discuss. We’ve got the tech; unfortunately, climate change builds up the need, and we know those approaches are profitable to everyone. So people realizing it’s about time to start working on it may well be the exact spark we were looking for here.

Let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered so far. First, boomers harvesting the rain from their gutter is a small-scale direct trend. Second, as I just explained, I see a pretty straightforward mid-scale consequence as well, with distributed rainwater harvesting, dynamic storage and use, and why not different shades of wastewater reuse.

3. An impact on large-scale water projects?

But what about the large scale? That’s where I’d see a third and last prospective consequence. Of course, that’s the least agile of all the segments I have discussed so far. But as climate change triggers extreme events, it not only results in water-scarce months but also in water overflows!

Oftentimes, you’ll have in the exact same geography, a month with far too much water – think of a Monsoon – and eleven other months with various shades of scarcity.

So, if you were to be able to mitigate the former by storing a lot of water to better survive the latter by slowly emptying the storage, you’d just replicate at a larger scale what our Boomers and Gen X do in their gardens.

Feeding the Planet will require water

These kinds of projects have been around for some years now, but they’ve often met major hurdles like a lack of financing or a sizeable popular opposition.

But in a World where we’re more and more concerned about our ability to feed everyone in the future if we don’t solve our open water riddles, building new reuse loops within the overall water cycle sounds like the most resilient and clever solution on the short, mid and long term, and on the small, middle and large scale.

Conclusion: What’s the Future of Water beyond what Pinterest spotted?

Did Pinterest predict that? Well, yes and no.

I maybe extrapolated a bit, adding my wishful thinking into the pot. But you’ll tell me in the comments how far off you think I am, right?

Anyways, I see it as a very positive sign for the water sector, its visibility, and its impact to see it featured in a general opinion data trend analysis.

Water has been flying under the radar for far too long; it’s about time for things to change – and it may start in 2023.

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