Archive for the 'water filtering' Category

Jerusalem’s water contamination scare hits both Arabs and Jews

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“Residents of Jerusalem were told yesterday to boil their water for two minutes until further notice. High levels of treated sewage water had leaked into the main drinking water system. The neighborhoods affected include Arab and Jewish regions alike: Baka, Abu Tor, Talpiot, Tsur Baher, Silwan, Ras el-Amud, the Old City, Mamilla and Musrara.

Even by this morning the Health Ministry said people should still boil their water and not use water from the tap for brushing teeth or for any matters involving food.

The issue affects an estimated 130,000 people. Early this morning helicopters with missiles attached to them were spotted and cited by Jerusalem residents. One on Facebook connected the sighting to the water contamination and a possible terror attack. Though no comment was made like this in the mainstream news.

Hagihon, the company that tests the water started getting calls on Tuesday, the local newspaper the Jerusalem Post reports.

First samples showed decreased levels of chlorine, pointing the finger at contamination.

The city has taken the issue so seriously that they have set up a situation room, including the mayor’s presence, in order to deal with the problem.

I took a tour of one of Jerusalem’s largest water repositories way back when and it was like looking inside a football field-sized pond covered with cement. With high levels of security, it’s hard to see how infiltrators could get in, but this is always on the minds of the people who protect Israel’s drinking water.”

Read more: Green Prophet

Desal or Not?- Big Meets Small in the Nexus with the Future Up for Grabs

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Desal or Not?- Big Meets Small in the Nexus with the Future Up for Grabs

by Miles Ten Brinke

Miles, Peak Water columnist and avowed Hydrophilic energy-head, has found his way to Britain where he’s lost his California perma-tan and is studying an Energy Policy MSc at the University of Exeter on a Fulbright.

Desalinisation is a fascinating expression of the water-energy nexus, and its inherent contention. Though there are many technical approaches to actually achieving the desired results, the idea is simply to produce fresh water from salt water. Depending upon your perspective, this technology and it likely approach to water management can generally be one of two things- a brilliant technical fix or a socio-environmental nightmare.

Regardless of one’s positionality, there is a strong backing (powerful stakeholders some of whom have access to lots of capital) for desalinisation and the problem it purports to solve will only spread out and increase in intensity over time. Should it prove technically feasible at some signifiant scale, we may see more than just demonstration plants in the next ten years and increasing commercialisation by 2050. An interesting question for folks considered about more than just security of supply is the sustainability of desal technologies. One interesting prospect for instance is the potential for solar powered desalination.

This past month has been incredibly busy for me, in no small way due to progress on my pursuit of a PhD. As I’ve moved through the application process the project has been refined and my ideas polished. My focus will be on arid case studies, places with scarcity of both energy and water (a major hypothesis being that there’s cross causality there). The conditions that make desal look viable, its potential impacts and the socio-technical system itself all exemplify this. As a part of a centralised resource management plan, desal would include both energy for water (the desalinisation process itself is extremely energy intensive, and so is moving around all that water from points of production to its diffused consumption)  and water for energy (centralised power which is usually produced using large thermal electricity plants which consume fuels such as coal, gas and uranium often use water as their primary coolant). Desalinisation in many ways represents a central dualism in socio-environmental policymaking, one I hope to explore at length in my research.

That is, between two broad scales of technology and governance structures- technocratic centralisation vs. democratised dispersion (for those of you familiar with energy policy, its essentially Amory Lovin’s Road Not Taken- Hard Path vs. Soft Path, with more socio-political considerations added in). Briefly now let me tool this apart before going back to Desal and a specific case. On one hand you have the technology on a continuum of degree of centralisation (really just big vs. small). Think nuclear power plant versus solar panel. On the other you have decision making, and how it’s concentrated. In a strong technocratic system, its an unelected elite of experts making all the calls with little or no transparency and access by other stakeholders. The opposite of that would be a system with very diffuse decision-making with non-experts and regular folks having a lot of input in a very open system. Its your classic top-down versus bottom-up divide. Even with water and the Nexus itself I often relate things back to this thinking. To keep it simple lets just think of it as big vs. small (both in tech and governance).

Near the end of February, the New York Times published a piece on the development of a $1 billion desalinisation plant in Carlasbad, California which began construction in late 2012. The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has agreed to purchase 48,000 acre-feet of water (one of the main units of measure in water policy, one acre-foot being equivalent to about 326,000 American gallons) per year at $2,000 an acre-foot. This will supply 7% of total water supplies for 30 years.

Beyond of the socio-environmental considerations of this reverse-osmosis plant the central debate in the area is on cost. Both the firm building the plant, Poseidon Resources and the SDCWA are betting on a continuation and acceleration of the trend in rising water demand.  In its scenario calculations the SDCWA estimates that this may be cheaper than status quo cost projections by 2024. They currently get their water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for about $1000 per acre-foot. Its a gamble, but both the agency, the firm and their backers argue that in a time of dwindling fresh water supplies and growth demand will inevitably rise. Critics, both from environmental NGOs and independent research institute argue strongly that not only will this raise consumer water bills but also electricity as more energy is needed to power the plant, and that there’s no guarantee on the development of the region’s shifting thirst. Their proposed alternative is greater investment in demand side management (DSM), that there isn’t a need for a supply-driven drive to forge a new market for desal plants to solve our water crisis.

This is a classic case of big vs. small. Right now there’s only one other commercial scale desal plant in the US- in Tampa Bay, Florida. It’s not been a dramatic success for the burgeoning industry, lots of costly mistakes. That goes with the territory, risks are always higher at the opening of a market. Over time the costs may go down and with the right governmental support there very well may be a boom. The problem is that even should one accept it as a viable and acceptable approach, desalinisation will in all likelihood dis-incentivise water conservation & reuse and investment in efficiency. Think about it, you invest all this money and sign a contract for guaranteed supply. If you can reach a point where this becomes the new cheap option, why go back to sorting out your demand?

It really does matter where you start. From a supply orientation (big) you have a shortage that needs to be plugged by any means necessary and using economies of scale. Demand orientation (little) means focusing on using what’s already available more effectively and working to change the conditions that caused the shortage to begin with. The former generally does little to curb demand growth and is resource inefficient, but the latter risks supply insecurity if DSM isn’t effective enough.

I’m going to leave you all with a rather unfair quandary now, a dichotomy (of sorts) to revisit soon. No matter what we decide, we set ourselves down a trajectory which may not be easy to change further down the line. This is infrastructure we’re talking about, decisions made at one moment will shape decades to come.

Question is, which do we bet our money on?

~ Miles on Water



Reclaimed Wastewater for Drinking: Safe but Still a Tough Sell

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Water filtration technology has advanced to the point where wastewater can be rendered safe for drinking, according to a new report, but legislative and psychological hurdles will need to be overcome before widespread adoption can happen.

“Expanding water reuse could significantly increase the nation’s water resource, particularly in coastal communities,” said Rhodes Trussell, president of Trussell Technologies in Pasadena, California, and chair of the committee that wrote the report.

Treated wastewater, also known as reclaimed water, is commonly used for irrigation and industry. And many towns already rely on reused water simply because they draw water downstream from other municipalities’ wastewater release pipes.

“De facto reuse takes place throughout the country,” Trussell said.

But getting the public to knowingly drink treated wastewater has been a tough sell.”

Read more: National Geographic


The best wastewater treatment plants can’t filter out superbug fragments

The best wastewater treatment plants can't filter out superbug fragments

Retrieved from: MedicalXpress

“The implications are unclear — researchers did not look for whole living , just for dead fragments of their  — but experts are concerned. Superbugs have developed resistance to almost every kind of antibiotic. They are building resistance faster than science can create . Many of them are deadly.

“Timothy LaPara and a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, testing water pouring from a modern water treatment facility in Duluth, found genes of  in the discharge. Most American cities do not have facilities as good as Duluth’s, but no one knows for sure how much worse the situation may be at those facilities because it has not been measured.

“This is not a trivial thing to miss,” said Ellen Silbergeld, professor and editor-in-chief of Environmental Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Silbergeld said LaPara shows the situation is more troubling than many had thought.

“The best-known superbug is MRSA, , which even has been found in the locker room of a  team but usually picked up in hospitals. It is sometimes defeated by massive doses of multiple , but not always.

“A new superbug, Clostridium difficile, which can cause a fatal colon inflammation, now is on the rise. Two antibiotics work for that bug most — but not all — of the time. A quarter of patients relapse and some will die.”

Read more: MedicalXpress


Wash. rules to spell out strategies to curb runoff

A "rain garden" is shown in a residential area of Puyallup, Wash., Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. Puyallup has installed more than 50 rain gardens to soak up rain and stormwater runoff as a strategy to keep rainwater from washing pollutants into rivers and Puget Sound. Retrieved from:

“SEATTLE (AP) — The city of Puyallup has installed dozens of neighborhood rain gardens to prevent rain from washing pollutants into nearby waterways. Mount Vernon used a type of asphalt that allows rainwater to seep into the ground when it built a new walkway. And Seattle has used roofs planted with vegetation to reduce runoff.

Washington cities and counties have occasionally turned to eco-friendly strategies to keep rain from carrying grease, metals and other toxic pollutants into rivers, lakes and Puget Sound. But low-impact methods, such as using vegetation and cisterns to slow runoff, may soon be a requirement every time someone builds a new development or redevelops property in Western Washington.

State environmental regulators released draft rules Wednesday that spell out exactly how governments should incorporate the strategies to control polluted runoff that can harm fish and water quality.

The draft rules attempt to strike a balance between tackling stormwater pollution while recognizing that local governments are strapped for resources, Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said Wednesday.

The state was ordered to consider greener strategies by the state Pollution Control Hearings Board after environmentalists sued. The board mandated low-impact methods for the most populous areas in Western Washington. The board also said the state needed to do more to ensure low-impact methods were used in smaller cities in the region.”

Read more: seattle pi


Desalination: Little Oversight of California Water Boards

Indide Doheny Beach pilot desal plant. Retrieved from: DC Bureau

“Dana Point, California –When it comes to pushing for energy-intensive ocean desalination projects along the coast of California, the motivation of some water board members is being questioned.

“The wife of the pro-desalination chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a consultant to the Orange County water district, and she helped permit the Doheny Beach pilot desalination plant. She is also vocal in encouraging CalDesal, a nonprofit pro-desalination lobbying group supported by public water agencies.

“I think there’s a problem there,” says Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach City Council member who has been looking for conflicts of interest among the region’s often overlooked water boards.

“Kevin Hunt, district manager, says the fact Foley’s wife, Mary Jane, is paid by the district does not violate any law or regulation because Foley is not a board member, but rather an appointed representative to the regional water board.

“Reached during a tour of the Doheny Beach desalination pilot project, Foley denies that his wife’s involvement with desalination poses any conflict. “She believes in desal,” Foley, a retired Army colonel, says. “That’s the fundamental problem.”

“Asked about his own position on desalination, Foley says he is in complete support.

“But we have a difficult time with a lot of opposition that’s not really sustainable,” Foley says. “It will fade as we develop more need. Unfortunately, we have an abundance of water right now. In the long run we’re going to need desalination. We’ve probably pushed conservation as far as we can, quite frankly. Any more money poured into it is not going to return that much.”

Read more: DC Bureau

Ground Glass Solution for Cleaner Water

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“British science has led to a use for waste glass that cannot be recycled that could help clean up polluted waterways by acting as an ion-exchange filter to remove lead, cadmium and other toxic metals.

“Only a fraction of waste glass bottles and jars can be recycled, partly because much of the glass is coloured, brown or green, and partly because the market sustains only a limited weight of recyclable glass. Millions of tonnes of waste container glass are generated across Europe. As such, large amounts of waste glass, purportedly for recycling, are shipped to China and elsewhere to be ground up and used as hardcore filling materials for road building.

“Now, Nichola Coleman of the University of Greenwich, London, has developed a simple processing method for converting waste container glass, or cullet, into the mineral tobermorite. Tobermorite is hydrated calcium silicate, silicate being the main material that can be extracted from glass. In the form produced, the phase-pure 11-angstrom form — the mineral can be used as an ion-exchange material that can extract toxic lead and cadmium ions from industrial effluent, waste water streams or contaminated groundwater.”

Read more: Science Daily

The Prem Rawat Foundation to Aid Relief Efforts in Drought-Stricken Kenya

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“MC will use TPRF funding to assist families in northern Wajir districts, where reports say matters are made more difficult by the remoteness of the pastoral inhabitants in the area. MC organizers say their efforts will focus on the repair and rehabilitation of current water sources, providing clean and safe water, building latrines and offering hygiene education. There are also plans to rehabilitate water catchments, which will help alleviate community conflict over water resources while improving access for both humans and livestock.

United Nations estimates that more than four million Kenyans are among those threatened by starvation (BBC). The UN’s Food Security & Nutrition Analysis Unit anticipates that the situation is likely to persist until at least December. The crisis goes beyond fluctuations in climate, say some experts, because Kenyans have learned to cope with low rainfall throughout their history.”

Read more: Market Watch


Is the U.S. Reaching Peak Water?

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“Overall, there is plenty of water on the planet and it is (mostly) a renewable resource. But there are serious physical, environmental, and economical constraints on water availability that make regional water problems increasingly urgent. As a result, there are growing efforts in the business and investment communities to understand how risks of water shortages might affect corporate strategy and decisions, and conversely, how to maintain a strong economy in the face of growing freshwater limits. [For example, the UN CEO Water Mandate, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Alliance for Water Stewardship, the World Economic ForumDEG-WWF Water Risk Filter, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), among others, all have water and business-related efforts underway.]

There are three different definitions of “peak water” and there is evidence that the U.S., or parts of the country, have exceeded peak constraints for all three: Peak Renewable Water, Peak Non-Renewable Water, and Peak Ecological Water.

Peak Renewable Water. Most water resources are renewable, in the form of flows of rainfall, rivers, streams, and groundwater basins that are recharged over relatively short time frames. Renewable, however, does not mean unlimited.”

Read more: Forbes


Water World Weekly: LA considers plan to reclaim wastewater for drinking water

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“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has wrapped up its $2 million dollar Groundwater Replenishment Treatment Pilot Study, which takes a hard look at a plan to transform wastewater into drinking water.

Officials say the $700 million dollar plan will reduce the city’s reliance on imported water supplies. Currently, more than half of its drinking water comes from Northern California or the Colorado River.

The city’s Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Encino already pumps about 40 million gallons of reclaimed water daily for irrigation and industrial uses.

Under the proposed plan, 30,000 acre feet of that water would undergo further advanced treatment processes — including microfiltration, reverse osmoses and UV purification — before being injected into wells under the Hansen dam.

BY 2035, LA DWP aims to increase its use of reclaimed wastewater to 8 percent.”

Read more: WaterWorld