By 2030, the planet’s supply of fresh water is projected to be 40% less than is needed to meet global demand for food, energy, economic productivity, and sanitation. Desalination technologies – which produce fresh water from brackish water, frack water, industrial wastewater and seawater – could play an important role in preventing this shortfall.

VentureRadar tracks dozens of desalination startups and other innovators, so we decided to pick out our top startups that are developing breakthrough technologies to meet this global challenge. We’ve selected from companies formed since 2012.

Anfiro is using self-assembling polymer technology to create reverse osmosis (RO) membranes that are designed to vastly outperform current technology. The company says its membranes can achieve a drastic reduction in the cost of desalinating and purifying water because they are chlorine resistant and highly permeabile. The company was founded in 2014 and licensed part of its technology from the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

Desolenator has developed a patented device that uses only solar power to purify water from any source, including sea water, removing 99.9% of contaminants. The Desolenator device has a lifespan of up to 20 years and requires very little maintenance; it uses no filters, no membranes, and no pre-treatment chemicals. The company was founded in 2014.

Nagare was founded in 2013 to develop advanced carbon nanotube membranes for seawater desalination, wastewater reuse, and personal water purification. The company says that its technology will reduce the costs of seawater desalination and wastewater reuse below the point where they will be the lowest cost sustainable sources of new fresh water. The desalination technologies Nagare is developing may also be applied to protect people from waterborne disease by removing pathogens from the water.

High Voltage Water was established in 2014 as a spin-off company of the Dutch water institute Wetsus. The company develops innovative electrospray technology for multi effect distillation (MED) systems. The company says this has the potential to significantly reduce energy use and capital expenditure in municipal and industrial desalination facilities across the globe.

Adionics has developed, AquaOmnes, a liquid-liquid deionization technology for brackish, seawater and brine treatment. It extracts salts out of saline water with low energy consumption, in line with thermodynamic minimum energy consumption. The company says it can halve the cost of desalted seawater and reduce the cost even more for higher saline waters. Adionics was founded in 2012.

Water shortages caused by a growing population, the effects of climate change and industrialisation has created one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. We’re looking forward to watching how these startups progress and help to meet this challenge.