The big bag theory: a cheap and innovative way to transport fresh water

An innovative and inexpensive method of transporting fresh water to areas of drought or disaster, such as earthquakes: Fresh water is abundant in some areas of our planet, and scarce in others. Of course we can transport fresh water by sea, but that's expensive. Can we make it affordable? In Spain, engineers from a European research project are getting ready to test their solution.

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  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
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  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


This page was published on 21/06/2016
Published: 21/06/2016

  Infocentre

Published: 21 June 2016  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Innovation
SMEs
Special CollectionsWater
Success storiesTransport
TransportWaterborne
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Czechia  |  Italy  |  Spain  |  Turkey
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The big bag theory: a cheap and innovative way to transport fresh water

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Video in MP4 format:  ar  de  el  en  es  fa  fr  hu  it  pt  ru  tr  uk  (37.9 MB)

After two days of filling with fresh water an immense floating container is ready for its first journey on the open sea. It’s solid enough to walk on, but also flexible, so the waves lapp around and over it.

Samuele Ambrosetti is an Industrial innovation engineer with D’Appolonia: “This is a waterbag, a flexible container to transport drinking water by sea. It’s made of a highly resistant and watertight textile material. Its modules are joined together with a zipper which is very strong and waterproof.”

The zippers make it easy to combine individual segments to make the bag as large or as small as necessary.

Gianfranco Germani the general manager at Ziplast explains: “The seam is specially designed to make this bag fully modular. It consists of two layers of material sealed like a sandwich inside the textile surface of the waterbag. In the middle of the zipper there is a polyurethane membrane which guaranties a waterproof seal.”

The prototype contains 2000 cubic metres of fresh water – that is 2000 tons of weight. The engineers need to make sure that the zippers do not burst when this heavy bag is towed at full speed on the rolling sea.

Jaroslav Demuth a fiber optics engineer at Safibra tales up the story: “So, here is the fiberoptic sensor inside. The sensors follow the tanks, so we can see the deformation of the tanks, and if there are some big waves or the speed is too high we must inform the captain.”

How can this technology be of use?

Josep Lluis Curto a polymer chemist and XXL-REFRESH project coordinator “It was developed mainly to transport water from zones where it’s abundant to relatively close areas that experience a short-term need of fresh water, such as a massive influx of tourists in the summer season for example. It can also allow to provide response in emergency situations.”

The test is a success the waterbag holds up well behind the tugboat. It naturally floats on the surface, since it’s filled with fresh water which is lighter than the salty seawater.

Jaroslav Demuth again:“We see some signals, some waves. When the captain speeds up the boat we can see there’s higher stress on the tank, but still it’s within the limits.”

The engineers estimate that this method is twice as cheap as water tanker deliveries and all that with a lower environmental impact.

And unlike tankers, the waterbag can be simply unzipped after returning to dock then folded and stored in a container.

Gianfranco Germani continues: “Our next intention is to increase the waterbag capacity tenfold or twentyfold, and to make it sail autonomously, navigating by satellites.”

Project details

  • Project acronym: XXL-REFRESH
  • Participants: Spain (Coordinator), Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy
  • Project Reference N° 606423
  • Total cost: €1 763 944
  • EU contribution: €5 989 000
  • Duration: September 2013 - December 2015

See also

The video on this page was prepared in collaboration with Euronews for the Futuris programme.

Project web site

Project details

 

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See also

The video on this page was prepared in collaboration with Euronews for the Futuris programme.

Project web site

Project details

Contacts
Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40