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Aggies Invent for the Plant team

Water is in danger. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages in some portion of their states over the next decade. Such concerns do not even address the water situation in developing countries, where if trends continue, figures from the United Nations Population Fund suggest that by 2050, as many as 4.2 billion people will be living in countries that cannot meet the daily minimum living requirement of 50 liters of water per person.

This escalating demand amidst a growing need for limited water resources is exactly what drove civil engineering graduate student Bansi Rajesh Khajuria and her fellow Invent for the Planet teammates to come up with a simple solution: an app that helps families reduce water consumption and waste.

“By keeping the faucet running for 30 seconds more [than necessary] you can waste 20 gallons of water, keeping in mind that the average person in Africa uses just 22 gallons of water for the whole day,” Khajuria said. “So, we thought to develop an app that can be accessible all around the world which actually tracks your water wastage and makes people aware of how they can save more gallons a day.”

The app the team developed is able to track water wastage through the sound of water that is going through the faucet or the showers. It begins automatically working when the faucet comes on and it will alert the user of excessive use, keeping users aware of how they can conserve water and how many gallons they can save a day. The app was developed in 48 hours as part of Invent for the Planet, a global design challenge hosted by Texas A&M University where students from 13 different universities across 10 countries participated to solve the world’s engineering challenges, with each team addressing a specific need statement.

"The best ideas come when we are under intense pressure," Khajuria said. “The thing I learned the most was how to hone your soft skills and how to get along with people in such a short amount of time. That can be very challenging, and I've learned how to work together with people of different backgrounds and cultures which is so vital in the workforce.”

The team consisted of a physics student, two mechanical engineering students, a business student, a general engineering student and Khajuria, each of which provided a unique perspective in completing the project. Khajuria, who worked in industry before pursuing graduate school, used her understanding of internal residential piping to play a crucial role in the development of the app.

Each student was responsible for a specific aspect of the project, and they were able to come together despite having different backgrounds to complete the challenge. The spirit of collaboration, especially in the light of addressing global challenges across continental lines, is what Khajuria enjoyed most about the event.

“This [project] provided us with a very global perspective in regards to these challenges, because we have to come up with solutions that are feasible for the whole world,” Khajuria said.

Looking forward, Khajuria and her teammates would like to continue to pursue developing the app further, or other solutions like it, given the right resources and opportunities for growth.

“It's unfathomable frankly that these things we work on can impact all these people,” Khajuria said. “This problem doesn't seem grave to people here because water is so abundant, but there are actually a lot of water shortage problems cropping up in the rest of the world. I want to do my best to help prevent this in the future.”