VISTA, Calif. — A new survey of chemical engineers, published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (ICHemE), reports that the ability to treat water so that it can be used for human consumption is the most significant invention in the modern era, according to a press release.  

Beyond simply treating water, this involves such innovations as desalination as well as solar-powered systems that can be used to purify and disinfect water in developing countries with very hot climates, added Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of Waterless Co., maker of no-water urinal systems.

Using a short list, which included more than 40 important inventions, continued the release, the chemical engineers identified the following “solutions,” as they called them, that have had the most impact on society in at least the past century: Treating water for drinking; gasoline and related fuels; antibiotics; electricity generation from fossil fuels; vaccines; plastic; fertilizers; sanitation; electricity generation from non-fossil fuels; and dosed medications.