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…..
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
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.
- 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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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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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