A worker walks through a pipe at a construction site near Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Water Works Nagasawa Water Purification Plant.
A nuclear emergency in earthquake and tsunami-struck Japan is shining a light on the importance of water in fueling the planet: Nuclear production takes copious amounts of H2O. But before the crisis, Japan was making huge strides in water filtration technology and water supply and sewage management systems built to withstand earthquakes.
The Bureau of Waterworks serves nearly 12 million people in Tokyo, and, according to the Clinton Foundation, it has nearly halved the amount of water lost to leaking pipes in the past decade—from 39.6 billion gallons (150 million cubic meters) a year to 17.9 billion gallons (68 million cubic meters) a year. That’s about enough to supply Tokyo with water for 14 days and New York City for 15 days.
Tokyo’s water managers have made an intensive effort to replace or repair pipes as soon as a leak is detected. Aging pipes are often replaced with more earthquake-resistant magnesium-reinforced cast iron. And a highly evolved computerized detection system monitors the city’s water supply 24 hours a day.