Hydration Is a Simple Thing Has The Quest To Improve Water Actually Worked

Screenshot_2021-03-10 'Hydration is a simple thing' has the quest to improve water actually worked

From alkaline waters to beauty elixirs, added oxygen and probiotics, many brands claim they have ‘enhanced’ water – but what do the experts think?

Today, when I woke up, I made myself a cup of warm lemon water. After lunch I dropped a Berocca into a glass to power me through the afternoon haze. Running errands I considered treating myself to a Coke but opted instead for an expensive, vegetable-tasting water.

H2O classic may be a prerequisite to all known forms of life, but countless brands insist they have found ways to “improve” water. From a business standpoint, it’s working. Industry researchers IbisWorld estimate Australia’s “functional beverage” industry is worth $445.6m; and as people become more health conscious, the growth of the sector is outpacing the economy overall.

Like my day, the quest to boost water began by adding citrus. As early as the 12th century, the physician to Sultan Saladin was cataloging their qualities in a “Treatise of the Dietetic Properties of the Lemon”. By the 18th century, the Royal navy was pouring lemon and lime juice down sailors’ throats to prevent scurvy. In the midst of the US Civil War, one concerned citizen even wrote into the New York Times to suggest soldiers be provided “a few lemons every day” because “raw lemon juice will prove of immensely more benefit to sufferers from that indescribably dreadful thirst than buckets of water”.

Not quite as storied, my old pal Berocca first appeared in the 1960s, followed by a brightly coloured alphabet of vitamin effervescents, powder sachets and slickly branded bottled waters.

‘Not many people are actually vitamin deficient’

Vitamin water may have made sense for nutrient-deprived 18th century seamen, but there is little scientific love for these products now. “There is nothing you can get from Berocca that’s not available in a normal diet,” points out Dr Shea Wilcox, a general practitioner working in Melbourne. Berocca agrees with this sentiment, stating more than once in its FAQ that “vitamin and mineral supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet”.

“If someone has a vitamin deficiency of some degree, we don’t recommend they take Berocca,” Wilcox says. “It’s never offered as a treatment for anything.” He suggests that our enthusiasm for these products outpaces our need as huge improvements in the general population’s diet has meant that “not many people are actually vitamin deficient”.

If you do lack a specific micronutrient, the recommended treatment is to adjust your diet or top up with a doctor-directed supplement for a set period of time, or until you’ve returned to a normal level. Endlessly guzzling enriched water isn’t the way to get there.

‘Your body is fantastic at detoxifying’

Lemons might have sparked our interest in vitamin waters, but they also flow into the looming conversation around “detoxification” and how specialised drinks can assist with it. Anyone who has ever been on YouTube, read a “my day on a plate” article, or listened to professionally good looking people claim their beauty is cultivated, not gifted, has heard of lemon water’s celebrated “cleansing” properties. Our terror over grimy insides has also seen liquid charcoal, milk thistle, magnesium, zinc and others join the growing fight against toxins.

But, as Wilcox puts it, “Your body is fantastic at detoxifying itself without any outside assistance … it’s part and parcel of being a successful organism.” It doesn’t need a dose of expensive cleansing products to do so, since it has “an entire pathway to make sure there are no toxins”.

This long standing and widely available advice hasn’t dented the eternal dream that water, if handled correctly, could be a mythical source of loveliness and vitality.

‘It’s a big myth that drinking water can help with improving skin’

Lately, while feeling dull, I’ve also found myself online, surfing the rising ocean of “beauty waters” that promise to make me more luminous, refreshed and, well, beautiful.

The search for the fountain of youth reaches back to Alexander the Great. Except now rather than a magical spring, we reach for water containing products such as roses, crystals and exotic fruits alongside the less whimsical-sounding collagen, amino acid, silica and selenium.

These good looking, although usually pricey, products promise to improve skin elasticity, complexion, and offer a pleasing glow. While the branding is better, they exist in the same nutritional space as vitamin waters. Some may contain ingredients that are in theory good for you, but they aren’t delivered in a way that is really beneficial.

Echoing Wilcox’s advice, dermal therapist Yadira Galarza Cauchi recommends only taking “supplements under the guidance of a dietician or medical professional”. Adding that “excess amounts of water soluble vitamins are naturally excreted when over-consumed” – ie: you pee the expensive stuff out.

She’s generally weary of simplistic associations between water and skincare, positing: “It’s a big myth in this industry that drinking water can help with improving skin qualities such as skin hydration.”

In reality “topical skin care is required for this … in conjunction with a balanced diet.”

Alkalinity and extra oxygen?

While beauty and vitamin waters stand pretty close together, some brands have broken away, with products focused on tinkering with the molecular structure of water itself. There are waters that claim to have increased the amount of oxygen and hydrogen. With water already being well reviewed, you can kind of understand the impulse to add “more of the good stuff”, but here too promises that hacking the classic recipe will improve hydration, post-exercise recovery and reduce inflammation have been dismissed by doctors and failed to stand up in physiological testing.

Fans (or marketers) of alkaline waters are even more ambitious in their effort to upgrade water, claiming that by pushing pH levels up from tap water’s natural 7 to 8 or 9 they can regulate the body’s own pH levels. This difference can allegedly slow ageing, prevent chronic illness, manage high blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve bone density. The Mayo Clinic has splashed doubt on these claims, reporting that “research suggests that alkaline water is unlikely to significantly change blood pH” and that there’s “little credible evidence” for health benefits. An article breaking out these claims further in Medical News Today concluded “there is no evidence to support the health benefits of alkaline water, there is no recommended amount that improves health”.

‘A whole food diet is the best thing you can do for your internal flora’

A little closer to earth are probiotic waters. Unlike alkaline promises, the health science community are generally pro-probiotics. Gut-friendly foods like yoghurt, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut have been replenishing our microbiomes for much of human history, but have been increasingly spotlighted as gut health takes its place among top health and wellness trends. Now, there are several probiotic-enriched drinks around that are waterier than classic ferments, like kombucha and kefir.

“There is so much exciting research going on in the world of probiotics,” says Dr Johanna Simkin, senior curator of human biology and medicine at Museums Victoria, but, “the product/marketing side seems to have jumped enthusiastically on board, perhaps beyond where the genuine research is at!”

While she was quick to point out the research around probiotics is evolving, much of the industry focus has been on ingesting new microbes. Simkin says “the truth is you are set up with your own supply of microbes very early in life”. Rather than trying to introduce more, she suggests taking care of the trillions already in your gut. Luckily, like “detoxing”, this doesn’t require any expensive or specialty products.

“Simply put, a wholefood diet (non-processed food) is the best thing you can do for your internal flora,” Simkin recommends. “You can improve your microbiome within 24 hours simply by eating well … Beans, rice, sweet potato and other fresh fruit and veg are a great place to start.”

How water can work harder

Before you pitch your glass across the room, there are some situations where tap water can be helped along. VicHealth chief executive Dr Sandro Demaio stresses that “plain water from the tap is all most of us need to stay hydrated and healthy”. But it may not be enough when “when your body is losing fluids due to fever, diarrhoea or vomiting”. In these situations products with electrolytes (such as Hydralyte or sports drinks) can fulfil what at first seems like the kookiest claim, to help water be more hydrating.

“In your gut there is this sugar transporter that actively uptakes one sugar molecule and one water molecule,” Wilcox says. “So [water with electrolytes is] taken up from the gut faster than just drinking water alone … it gets water across the gut membrane faster.”

But you only need that kind of speedy hydration if you’ve been exercising, sweating a lot, or are unwell (in which case you should also consult a doctor). There’s no need to turbocharge hydration for sitting on the couch.

It’s easy to say anything that gets you drinking water is good for you. But as Demaio cautions, “there is no evidence that any additives can make water healthier”. Other than being more costly than tap water, “many of these products can contain added sugar. Too much added sugar can lead to tooth decay and weight gain, increasing your risk of chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, even our central fixation on optimal hydration may be misplaced. “You don’t actually need heaps of water … You get a lot of fluid through food,” Wilcox says.

Demaio puts it even more directly: “Hydration is a simple thing. You get thirsty, you drink water, repeat.”


Source: ‘Hydration is a simple thing’: has the quest to improve water actually worked? | Soft drinks | The Guardian



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By The Late 21st Century, The Number of People Suffering Extreme Droughts Will Double

Increase in water scarcity will affect food security and escalate human migration and conflict, scientists say.

By the late 21st century, the number of people suffering extreme droughts will double.

Researchers at Michigan State University are leading a global effort to offer the first worldwide view of how climate change could affect water availability and drought severity in the decades to come. The research is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

By the late 21st century, the global land area and population facing extreme droughts could more than double — increasing from 3% during 1976-2005 to 7%-8%, according to Yadu Pokhrel, an MSU civil and environmental engineer and lead author of a paper published in Nature Climate Change.

“More and more people will suffer from extreme droughts if a medium-to-high level of global warming continues and water management is maintained in its present state,” Pokhrel said. “Areas of the Southern Hemisphere, where water scarcity is already a problem, will be disproportionately affected. We predict this increase in water scarcity will affect food security and escalate human migration and conflict.”

The research team, including more than 20 contributing authors, is projecting a large reduction in natural land water storage in two-thirds of the world, also caused by climate change.

Land water storage, technically known as terrestrial water storage, is the accumulation of water in snow and ice, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, wetlands, soil and groundwater — all critical components of the world’s water and energy supply. Terrestrial water storage modulates the flow of water in the hydrologic cycle and determines water availability as well as drought.

“Our findings are a concern,” Pokhrel said. “To date, no study has examined how climate change would impact land water storage globally. Our study presents the first comprehensive picture of how global warming and socioeconomic changes will affect land water storage and what that will mean for droughts through the end of the century.”

Added Ingrid Padilla, a program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences, “This important study sheds light on future changes in water availability in different regions of the world and provides tools for global readiness and adaptation to water scarcity.”–  NSF Public Affairs, researchnews@nsf.gov

By: https://www.nsf.gov/

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How Will Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Power Our Future?

Pumped storage hydropower has proven to be an ideal solution to the growing list of challenges faced by grid operators.

As the transition to a clean energy future rapidly unfolds, this flexible technology will become even more important for a reliable, affordable and low carbon grid, write IHA analysts Nicholas Troja and Samuel Law.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. That old adage, Murphy’s law, must seem appropriate for many power grid operators in 2020.

This year has tested the safe running and reliability of grids around the world like few others. Often termed ‘the biggest machine ever built,’ managing a power system, involving the coordination of complex and instantaneous interactions, is a formidable task at the best of times.

With the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on top of extreme weather events, greater penetrations of variable renewables and increasingly aged thermal assets, the task has only become more demanding in many markets.

These challenges have brought into sharp focus the growing need for energy storage, such as that offered by pumped storage hydropower.

Recent events highlight the need for pumped storage

Covid-19 continues to have an extraordinary impact on electricity markets. During the height of worldwide lockdowns, with large sections of the economy shutdown or greatly impaired, electricity demand declined by up to 30 per cent in some countries across Europe and in India.

As Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated, the demand drop “fast forwarded some power systems 10 years into the future” regarding integrating higher percentages of variable renewable energy (VRE) which receive priority dispatch to the grid. Managing periods of such low demand can create “significant operational risks” for grid operators. In some markets, this has led to curtailing, or shutting down, wind and solar facilities to stabilise the grid.

During such periods, pumped storage hydropower, with its ability to both store and generate large quantities of energy over long periods, was the first port of call for those grid operators lucky enough to have such stations on hand. In Britain, its four pumped storage stations were hailed by the Financial Times newspaper as the “first line of defence in the battle to keep Britain’s lights on”. Able to increase system demand by pumping water back up to their upper reservoir, pumped storage is a more cost-effective way of managing the grid than paying operators to curtail variable supply.

In August, the U.S. state of California experienced rolling blackouts for the first time since 2001 due to a combination of record heatwaves driving up demand, faltering gas-fired stations and a lack of dispatchable generation. As Stephen Berberich, President of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said, “we thought there would be adequate power to supply the demand…we were wrong” and the costs to the Californian economy will be significant.

These managed blackouts provide yet another wake-up call for policymakers on the need to appropriately plan for a zero-emissions future. With limited balancing resources such as pumped storage, California’s grid did not have the flexibility to shift sufficient generating capacity to the evenings when the sun had set yet the demand remained high.

Given California’s aim of reaching 100 per cent clean electricity by 2045, mainly from wind and solar power which currently accounts for 20 per cent of generation, significant investment in flexible, low carbon balancing resources will be required.

In response, California is betting big on batteries for short-duration storage, from sub-seconds to up to four hours, to manage intraday variations in net load. However, with those high levels of VRE on the grid, long-duration storage, which can discharge for 10 hours or more at rated power, will be needed to accommodate the seasonal patterns of VREs. It will do so by shifting generation over days, weeks and months of supply and demand imbalance. This is a story that rings true for many countries across the world with ambitious climate targets.

Achieving California’s clean energy target is made even harder by the government’s decision to classify conventional hydropower stations greater than 30 MW as a non-renewable resource under its Renewables Portfolio Standard. This arbitrary classification is at odds with international consensus and penalises the state’s oldest source of affordable, flexible and low-carbon electricity.

Figure 1: Illustration of a closed-loop (off-river) pumped storage station and how it can be used support VRE.

Capabilities of pumped storage

With a total installed capacity of nearly 160 GW, pumped storage currently accounts for over 94 per cent of both storage capacity and stored energy in grid scale applications globally. This has earned pumped storage its name as the world’s “water battery”. It is a mature and reliable technology capable of storing energy for daily or weekly cycles and up to months, as well as seasonal applications, depending on project scale and configurations.

Pumped storage operates by storing electricity in the form of gravitational potential energy through pumping water from a lower to an upper reservoir (see figure 1). The result of this simple solution is a very high round-trip efficiency of 80 per cent, which compares favourably to other storage technologies.

Pumped storage tends to have high energy-to-power ratios and is well suited to provide long discharge durations at very low energy storage costs. Across different timescales, pumped storage can serve multiple functions (see figure 2). For example, at shorter discharge durations, it is suitable for ancillary services such as frequency balancing and back-up reserve.

With four to eight hours of discharge, it can provide daily shifting for day-night energy arbitrage. For longer durations over 10 hours, it can accommodate multi-day supply profile changes, reduce energy curtailment, replace peak generation capacity and provide transmission benefits.

Figure 2: The plot above visualises (logarithmic scale used) the estimated discharge durations relative to installed capacity and energy storage capacity for some 250 pumped storage stations currently in operation, based on information from IHA’s Pumped Storage Tracking Tool. The vast majority of pumped storage stations have a discharge duration longer than 6 hours, and some are capable of seasonal storage.

The majority of today’s pumped storage stations were built some forty years ago. Yet, they are still providing vital services to our power systems today. With occasional refurbishment, these long-term assets can last for many decades to come.

Despite being a mature technology, the resurgence of interest in pumped storage has brought forth numerous new R&D initiatives. One prominent example is the European Commission’s four-year XFLEX HYDRO project, which aims to develop new technological solutions to enhance hydropower’s flexibility. Latest innovations, such as variable speed turbines and smart digital operating systems, will be tested on a range of pumped storage demonstration sites.

While often thought of as geographically constrained, recent studies have identified vast technical potential for pumped storage development worldwide. Research by the Australian National University highlighted over 600,000 potential sites for low-impact off-river pumped storage development, including locations in California. There is also growing interest in retrofitting pumped storage at disused mines, underground caverns, non-powered dams and reservoir hydropower stations.                              

Seeking a path toward a clean, affordable and secure transition

California is a pioneer in the energy transition. Though many opponents of wind and solar have unfortunately used the blackouts as an example of why their rapid roll-out is a threat to a secure, reliable grid. As noted earlier, the blackouts were not due to too much VRE capacity being on the grid, but a lack of integrated planning to support an evolving electricity mix with sufficient dispatchable generation and storage.

The IEA recently stated that, dispatchable pumped storage, along with conventional hydropower, is the often overlooked workhorse of flexibility. However, its development, like many energy storage technologies, is currently being hampered by the lack of appropriate regulatory frameworks and market signals to reward its contribution to the grid. Outside China, year-on-year installed capacity growth has been anaemic at just 1.5 per cent since 2014 (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Global pumped storage installed capacity by region. Note that 2019 recorded the lowest growth in pumped storage capacity for over a decade, with only 304 MW added. Source: IHA’s database.

Given the technology’s long lead times, investment decisions are needed urgently to ensure that pumped storage, in conjunction with other low-carbon flexibility options, are available to grid operators without needing to rely on carbon-intensive gas-fired generation as a backup. This is especially important as VRE penetration reaches increasingly high levels not yet experienced on a regular basis.

IHA is continuing to work across the hydropower sector and is seeking to learn lessons from other sectors to support the development and deployment of pumped storage. Together with national authorities and multilateral development banks, we are developing a new global initiative to shape and enhance the role of the technology in future power systems.

Further information

Join our Hydropower Pro online community or sign-up to our email newsletter via our website homepage for latest developments.

To learn more about IHA and our work on pumped storage, please visit: www.hydropower.org/pumped-storage

To contact the authors please email nicholas.troja@hydropower.org and samuel.law@hydropower.org

Nick Troja is a Senior Hydropower Sector Analyst. His work focuses on building and sharing knowledge on global hydropower, including identifying trends in project financing, policies and market dynamics.

Before joining IHA, Nick worked for the UK’s steel industry focusing on the EU Emissions Trading System and the impact of other EU level climate change and energy policies on the sector. Prior to this he worked for the UK’s department of energy and climate change, covering a wide range of policy areas and as an adviser to the shadow minister for emissions trading and climate change in Canberra. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and master’s degree in public policy.  

Samuel Law is Hydropower Sector Analyst. His work focuses on building and sharing knowledge on sustainable hydropower development, working on topics such as clean energy systems, green financing mechanisms and regional hydropower development.

Samuel holds a master’s degree in environmental technology from Imperial College London and has a technical background in environmental engineering. Prior to joining IHA, he completed an internship with the United Nations in Bangkok. At the UN, he conducted research on Sustainable Development Goals, integrated resource management and collaborative governance, as well as supported project implementation and organised international conferences. He also has experience as a business intelligence analyst in London, where he conducted research on market dynamics and investment trends across industries.



Australian Renewable Energy Agency

Like the hydroelectric power stations that have powered Tasmania for a century, a new generation of pumped hydro plants will play an important role in Australia’s future energy mix. With the Australian Energy Market Operator forecasting that 15 GW of large-scale storage will be needed by the early 2040s, pumped hydro is expected to operate alongside large-scale batteries and other energy storage technologies. Learn more about pumped hydro here – https://arena.gov.au/blog/how-could-p


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What Happens When You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day?

I am that person who hates drinking water. Where others enjoy a satisfying thirst quencher, I suffer through a barrage of sulfur, algae, swimming pool, and old metal pipes. Most days I avoid the issue entirely, subsisting on coffee, herbal tea, and the occasional LaCroix. But a few months ago, I began to suspect that chronic dehydration was the reason I continually felt tired and achy. So, in an effort to overcompensate my way to better life habits, I decided to slosh through a feat known across the internet as the Water Gallon Challenge…..

Source: What Happens When You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day?

Massive Sinkhole Leaks Radioactive Water Into Florida’s Aquifer – Trevor Nace


A massive sinkhole recently collapsed nearby Mulberry, Florida, draining approximately 215 million gallons of radioactive and contaminated water into Florida’s aquifer. The sinkhole was located directly below a wastewater storage pond used by Mosaic, the largest phosphate fertilizer producer in the world. There is local outcry that the event in fact took place three weeks before the local community was notified, despite the fact that this is Florida’s largest and primary aquifer for potable water…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2016/09/23/massive-sinkhole-leaks-radioactive-water-into-floridas-aquifer/?fbclid=IwAR3n9mATbQzjTfq0I1Rra5iCO__arO_L74Mfupci8GKD9Tc8O7zib-R8vxs#652ad5f15ed8




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Bottled Water & Why Aussies Still Drink It Tap Water is Best – Jamie McKinnell


With one of the most stringent governances of tap water in the world, you would think developing a booming bottled water market in Australia is akin to selling ice to Eskimos.

Key points:

  • Over 250 guidelines govern Australian tap water
  • The bottled water industry generates more than $700 million a year
  • Blind testing has shown many people can’t tell the difference between bottle and tap

But despite publicity about plastic waste, effective marketing is not the only force steering consumers to a bottle.

Age, gender, culture, and lack of trust in water utilities all contribute.

Sydney Water last year commissioned research to understand the decline in trust of tap water, and confirmed bottled water marketing had an influence.

Western Sydney University’s Professor Gay Hawkins, who worked on the project, said the bottled water companies promoted purity.

“Even though the bottled water markets don’t explicitly criticize tap water, they undermine it by creating a new set of values around water in bottles,” she said.

The chief executive of the Australian Beverages Council, Geoff Parker, said strong labelling and consumer laws ensure what appears on labels is true, particularly with respect to spring water claims.

He said the industry — which now generates over $700 million annually — had expanded in the past five years largely due to consumers’ preference for convenience, taste and rising health consciousness.

A Queensland Urban Utilities survey found 35 per cent of people preferred bottled water over tap water, while 29 per cent thought it was better for them than tap water.

Blind testing in South Australia revealed many people cannot tell the difference without packaging.

What we take for granted

Australia’s governance of tap water is extremely strict and bottled water is not subject to the same checks.

Water utilities follow about 250 rigorous guidelines, developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which cover everything from metals to microbiology.

Adam Lovell, the executive director of peak body Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), said when the World Health Organisation set up guidelines, it used Australia as a model.

“Australia is a world leader in that respect,” he said.

Most people have only a basic understanding of water services, Mr Lovell added.

Professor Hawkins thinks many take the system for granted.

“They don’t understand it and they certainly wouldn’t take it for granted if they knew what it was like to live in a country where bad governance means there is unsafe water.”

A national report monitoring outcomes shows nearly 100 per cent compliance.

“You won’t see that in many other countries, believe me,” Mr Lovell said.

Mr Parker believes bottled water is not an alternative to tap water, but to all other packaged beverages — and with Australia’s expanding waistlines that alternative is important.

“Water is also a great choice for people who want fast and easy hydration without worrying about calories, and bottled water provides those benefits away from home,” he said.

Culture, age and gender

According to a WSAA survey, 60 per cent of people drink tap water and under 40s are far more likely to drink bottled water.

Women represent a higher proportion of bottled water drinkers. Professor Hawkins said the industry was built up by initially targeting fitness-conscious females, but there are also fitness arguments about the need to be “constantly sipping”.

Sydney Water focus groups also revealed Mandarin-speaking communities demonstrate “profound cultural resistance” to drinking from the tap.

Professor Hawkins said there was an “absolute ingrained habit” to boil drinking water, but also different cultural meanings around drinking.

“That community liked to drink tea more than water,” she said.

“You can’t say everyone has the same relationship to water utilities.”

The waste problem

According to the National Waste Report (2016), Australia produces about 64 mega tonnes of waste a year, or 2,705 kilograms per capita.

About 58 per cent of it was recycled and a comparison by Planet Ark suggests Australia’s recycling rate is relatively on par with northern European countries.

The ABC’s War on Waste this year highlighted the impact of single-use plastics, with more than 666,000 tonnes of plastic waste produced by Australian households every year.

Mr Parker said bottled water has one of the lowest environmental footprints of any commercial beverage and the industry is taking steps to tackle the waste problem posed by plastic bottles.

“Australian bottlers lead the way in new technologies designed to minimise the environmental impact of their product, including light weighting of plastics used, world leading water use ratios, blow fill bottling technology,” he said.

The industry has also been supporting governments that want to introduce container-deposit schemes.

Professor Hawkins believes the waste problem does sway some consumers, but water bodies need to encourage people to celebrate being lucky enough to live in a country where good governance leads to a safe supply.

“The challenge is to manage it carefully so it’s protected and distributed fairly,” Professor Hawkins said.

“Water utilities do that in the name of population health, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

“They need to promote that.”

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Democratizing” Drinking Water by Taking it From Thin Air – Dan Millison


Assuming healthy humans need 1 liter of Democratizing” Drinking Water by Taking it From Thin Airper day, daily drinking water consumption needs for the world’s 8 billion people could be met using only 0.000004% of the water vapor contained in the atmosphere.

In other words, water vapor is sufficient for 25 million times the Earth’s population. Given that the residence time of a water molecule in the lower atmosphere is 9-10 days, the atmosphere has more than 2 million times enough water to provide the world’s entire population.

The challenge is finding an affordable device to make that water vapor readily available in liquid form to the people who need it most – those that might rely on bottled water or otherwise don’t have reliable piped water supplies.

Enter a new technology—atmospheric water generators—which take water vapor from the atmosphere and convert it to liquid water. This technology comes in three forms.

Phase change devices can deliver climate-proof drinking water

The first is fog nets, a very low-tech system that has been used for centuries in parts of Latin America where intense fog occurs on a regular basis, and people capture water with fabric nets. Fog harvesting is a variation on rainwater harvesting, but it is not ideal for most countries in Asia and the Pacific; for instance, rainwater contamination from volcanic sulfur emissions makes it impossible in places like Vanuatu.

Another option is condensation or dehumidification. Refrigeration technology converts water vapor to liquid, but it’s not energy-efficient. There’s a high risk of air pollutants contaminating the water, so dehumidifiers are generally not marketed as drinking water appliances.

The third type of atmospheric water generation is phase change, or conversion of water vapor to liquid form. For a long time, researchers have been trying to figure out a way to exploit the enormous amount of water waiting to be harvested in the atmosphere. The goal is to make highly efficient and affordable phase change devices to extract water vapor from the atmosphere and convert it to liquid.

If we want climate-proof drinking water, we need something that does not impact ground water or surface water, so we need to look at phase change devices. Even better, the device should run on renewable energy.

Traditional support from development organizations for access to energy programs generally emphasizes productive end-use of energy. Some have piloted energy storage systems, but few (if any) have tried to cross over to cover food and/or water.

ADB pilot tackles energy-food-water nexus with hydropanels

In late 2016, ADB decided to bridge this gap by supporting a pilot project that addresses the energy-food-water nexus through atmospheric water generators.

We started looking at phase change powered by solar energy, by far the most abundant source of renewable energy. If we could mass-produce a reliable and affordable device, we have an infinitely scalable solution.  And then, if we could tick all these boxes and deliver these devices like common household appliances, we could essentially “democratize” drinking water.

As part of the pilot, US company Zero Mass Water installed 4 of their SOURCE “hydropanels” on the roof of ADB headquarters in May 2017. The panels, which use a combination of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy units coupled with a proprietary nano-technology, selectively adsorb water vapor from the atmosphere and de-sorbs water in liquid form – the same as distilled water.

The nano-technology works like a molecular sieve, common in industrial dehydration processes like dehydration of natural gas so that it can be injected into pipelines. The hydropanels produce “double-distilled” water that is passed through a mineral block so that the product is similar in taste and composition to high-end bottled water.

These units are intended for residential and domestic use in areas where consumers rely on bottled water due to unreliable or non-existent water services. They’re also a good option for places with suspect water quality.

Personal water ownership is like energy storage in a glass

The hydropanels produce 2-5 liters of water per day and have been deployed in a variety of climates, including the Sonora desert in the US and Mexico. ADB is supporting deployment of 40 SOURCE units in the Philippines and another 20 units in Vanuatu on a pilot basis to further assess its technical and economic viability.

Although other phase change devices are commercially available, most rely on an external power source (some run on diesel generator sets) or are too large for practical use at the residential level and remote locations. The SOURCE hydropanels are self-powered, self-contained, readily transportable, and designed for household-level services. ADB encourages such technologies for use in developing countries, particularly remote communities lacking adequate access to clean water.

Atmospheric water generators also have good potential for responding to natural disasters, when conventional water supply systems are destroyed or out of commission for several days.

The potential for re-inventing drinking water supply chains is intriguing. With this family of devices, drinking water for poor consumers can be decoupled from traditional water treatment and piped water infrastructure.

Personal water ownership is therefore possible, similar to what we are doing with distributed renewable energy systems. We can also think of this as energy storage in a glass. Either way, it’s shaping as a potentially path-breaking means of tackling water security challenges in developing Asia.



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Adding Up the Cost of Climate Change in Lost Lives – Greg Ip


An exhaustive new study focusing only on heat-related damage predicts that by 2099, even with economic growth and adaptation, 1.5 million more people world-wide will die each year because of increased temperatures.

PIRatE Lab’s insight:
Not surprisingly, wealthier places fare better: in Houston, each additional day averaging 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), relative to a “normal” day of 20 degrees, raises the annual death rate by 0.5 per 100,000 people. In Cairo, which is as hot as Houston but only one-tenth as rich, a hot day is nearly 10 times deadlier.

More surprising, temperate places fare worse, because they aren’t used to heat: in Seattle, a hot day is seven times deadlier than in Houston because fewer homes have air conditioning and people spend more time outdoors.

The study uses these relationships to project the effects of global temperatures rising four degrees Celsius by 2099, which is the scientific consensus of how much temperatures will rise if no steps are taken to slow carbon emissions.
Without the benefits of growth and adaptation, mortality rates would rise by 125 per 100,000 people, or 14 million additional deaths. Factoring in rising incomes, that drops to 44. Incorporating adaptive behavior, such as staying indoors, it drops further, to 13, roughly 1.5 million people.
 The impacts are highly uneven. Mortality actually drops in temperate, rich cities such as Oslo because they experience fewer dangerously cold days, and their affluence minimizes the harm of hot days. It rises sharply in places like Mogadishu, Somalia, that, despite being used to hot days, aren’t rich enough to withstand the extremes. Within the U.S., mortality drops in the relatively cool northern plains but rises in the southeast.
 The toll goes beyond death. Adaptation avoids some deaths but soaks up money and effort that can’t go toward other things such as dental care and vacations. These costs ought to be factored into the effects of climate change. Regulators evaluating new safety rules routinely express human lives in dollar equivalents.
The study’s authors do the opposite, expressing the costs of adaptation in death-equivalents. This raises the net impact on mortality to 35 per 100,000, or roughly 3.9 million lives. Using dollars instead of deaths, the study concludes the heat-related costs incurred by one additional metric ton of carbon dioxide is $39, far larger than existing estimates of around $1.50, according to one popular model, says Mr. Greenstone, who helped developed estimates of the social cost of carbon under President Barack Obama.
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How Do You Know You’re Drinking Enough Water – Jane E. Brody


I wonder how we all survived — and even thrived — in our younger years without the plethora of water bottles that nearly everyone seems to carry around these days.

In reading about the risks and consequences of dehydration, especially for the elderly and anyone who exercises vigorously in hot weather, it is nothing short of a miracle that more of us had not succumbed years ago to the damaging physical, cognitive and health effects of inadequate hydration.

Even with the current ubiquity of portable water containers, far too many people still fail to consume enough liquid to compensate for losses suffered especially, though not exclusively, during the dehydrating months of summer.

For those of you who know or suspect that you do not drink enough to compensate for daily water losses, the good news is you do not have to rely entirely on your liquid intake to remain well hydrated.

Studies in societies with limited supplies of drinking water suggest you can help to counter dehydration and, at the same time, enhance the healthfulness of your diet by consuming nutritious foods that are laden with a hidden water source. Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and seeds are a source of so-called gel water — pure, safe, hydrating water that is slowly absorbed into the body when the foods are consumed.

That is the message in a new book, Quench, by Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist in New York, and Gina Bria, an anthropologist whose studies of the water challenges faced by desert dwellers led to the establishment of the Hydration Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes understanding and consumption of nonliquid sources of water.

More about these foods later. First, I must convince more of you that remaining well hydrated is crucial to your health. However solid your body, the majority of it is water, ranging from 75 per cent of the body weight of infants to 55 per cent of the elderly. Every bodily process, every living cell, depends on water to function properly. Water transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints and internal organs, supports the structure of cells and tissues and preserves cardiovascular function. People can survive for only three or four days — a week at most — without water.

But more to the point is the quality of survival. Inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Brain effects include mood shifts, muddled thinking, inattentiveness and poor memory. A loss of only 1 to 2 per cent of body water can impair cognitive performance, according to studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Your body’s water balance is determined by how much you consume, your age and activity level and environmental conditions. The body loses water through the skin, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract; in other words, by sweating, breathing and elimination of waste, both liquid and solid.

“Water needs can vary from person to person — and no one person will need the same amount of fluid from one day to the next,” the Virginia scientists wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

ABS data shows the average amount of plain water and water from non-discretionary beverages consumed by an Australian is 1,389 ml per day. But people who engage in quasi-vigorous physical activity daily need more, and those who exercise strenuously for more than an hour a day need even more than that, perhaps supplemented by a sports drink containing the electrolytes sodium and potassium (but avoid those with more than a pinch of sugar). Keep in mind that skimping on your liquid intake or relying on sugary drinks can take a toll on your physical performance.

If you are planning to engage in strenuous exercise or do physical work outdoors on a hot day, it is best to start hydrating the day before. Check the color of your urine; the paler it is, the better. Also continue to drink water or other fluids throughout your activity and for hours afterward.

A critical factor in remaining well hydrated is not to rely on thirst to remind you to drink but rather to be proactive by consuming enough liquid before, during and after meals and physical activity. The long-standing advice to drink eight glasses of water a day was something I (among many others) was never able to achieve. I am happy to say that experts have since modified that rule. Current thinking calls for getting about 70 per cent of daily water needs from liquids (including coffee and tea, by the way, though not alcohol) and the rest from solid foods.

The authors of Quench suggest two dozen fruits and vegetables that are especially hydrating, ranging from cucumbers (96.7 per cent water) to grapes (81.5 per cent water). Surely you can find many you would enjoy in a list that includes lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, carrots, peppers, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, apples and pears.

Even chia seeds, an ancient so-called superfood said to sustain the ultrarunning prowess of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, can be a force against dehydration; they absorb 30 times their weight in water and can provide the body with slow-release hydration, especially during long bouts of physical activity in high heat and humidity.

Naturally packaged plant water hydrates more efficiently than plain drinking water, the Quench authors maintain, because it is already purified, is packed with soluble nutrients and gradually supplies the body with water.

That said, while there is considerable anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of plant water, especially among enthusiasts of green smoothies, well designed clinical studies are still lacking. Yet I feel comfortable in recommending an increased reliance on these hydrating foods because, at the very least, they can result in a more nutritious diet and foster better weight control.

Getting more of your water from plant foods can also help to cut down on pollution. The Earth is being overrun with disposable plastic water bottles that litter streets and parks and float in rivers, oceans and lakes everywhere. Unless you are visiting a region of the world where it is unsafe to drink the water, try to avoid buying water. If you are in doubt about the safety of your municipal water supply, if you rely on well water that has not been tested or if you dislike the taste or your local water, consider installing a faucet filter or using a portable filter container like Brita.

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Could This Low-Cost Device Provide Clean Drinking Water To Those In Need – Emily Matchar


Worldwide, some 850 million people lack access to clean drinking water. Contaminated water transmits a huge variety of diseases, including cholera, dysentery and typhoid, causing more than half a million deaths a year.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have developed a solar water purifier they hope can sanitize water more quickly, cheaply and effectively than other models.

“Solar energy is basically free,” says Qiaoqiang Gan, a professor of engineering who led the research. “In some countries in tropical areas, they are short of resources but they have an abundance of solar energy.”

The design looks more or less like a small A-frame tent. Black carbon-dipped paper is draped over a triangular form and set on top of the water. The edges of the paper trail in the water, soaking it up like a sponge. It’s a modernization of the ancient technology of the solar still, which uses solar energy to evaporate water and leave contaminants behind. The water vapor then cools, condenses and can be collected.

Gan’s team improved the design of the solar still, making it more efficient by giving it a sloped shape—this keeps the paper cool, since light hits it at a slant instead of directly. Since the paper stays below the ambient temperature, it draws heat from its surroundings, which makes up for the loss of solar energy during the vaporization process.

The device can evaporate about 2.2 liters of water per hour for every square meter of paper hit by the sun. This is more efficient than other solar-powered water purifiers, Gan says.

The research was described in a paper published earlier this month in the journal Advanced Science. The work, funded by the National Science Foundation, was a collaboration between University at Buffalo, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Fudan University in China. The first authors on the paper were Haomin Song and Youhai Liu.

Researchers Qiaoqiang Gan, Zongmin Bei and Haomin Song were among the authors of the new study. The three engineers and their colleagues are working to bring the solar still to those who need it through their startup, Sunny Clean Water. (Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo)

Gan and his colleagues have set up a company to commercialize the technology. Their prototype can condense and collect between 10 and 20 liters every day in full sun conditions, Gan says. As the average adult woman needs about 2.7 liters of fluid per day and the average man needs about 3.7, some 80 percent of which comes from drinks, the still could in theory provide enough daily drinking water for a family. Gan estimates it will cost about $200 and will be available within a year or so.

Gan hopes the device will be cheaper than similar technologies developed in recent years, many of which rely on expensive nanomaterials. Stanford scientists have created a tiny water filter using “nanoflakes” of molybdenum, several companies have been looking at using nanocellulose for water treatment, while a Tanzanian engineer’s nanofilter won the African innovation prize from the UK Royal Academy of Engineering. In contrast, the solar still uses inexpensive and widely available carbon paper.

The device can be used on any kind of water surface—a lake, a pond, a trough, even the ocean. But how it works will depend on the setting.

“The major challenge is different people in different areas have local needs,” says Gan, who just returned from a fact-gathering trip to Argentina. “Especially if the source water quality is very different.”

For example, if the still is used on the ocean, salt will eventually accumulate on the surface. This and other design challenges are still being worked on.

The still can remove nearly 100 percent of bacteria, viruses and organic compounds like arsenic, Gan says. It does less well with certain volatile chemicals, including certain pesticides, which are evaporated up with the water rather than left behind.

“It looks like it has some serious promise to it,” says Desmond Lawler, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, of the system.

Lawler says one major consideration will be the humidity of the environment where the still is used. In very humid conditions—think the Caribbean after a hurricane—it’s much harder to evaporate water. The team will need to take this into consideration when designing systems for specific locations.

Though he doesn’t imagine the system being a substitute for more permanent clean water sources, Lawyer says he finds the simplicity of the system promising.

“A small-scale system that could create drinking water for a family,” Lawler says. “It’s very exciting to think about, particularly for emergency situations.”

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