Is the Water Pyramid a Water Wonder?

technology, water availability, water treatment

Today, I found out via Gender and Water Alliance about a new technology to produce distilled water in arid areas. It’s called the Water Pyramid,and it was developed by a fellow named Martijn Nitzsche. There are two of these pyramids in India – one in the Kutch Desert of Gujarat and the other in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. The pyramid stands about 30 feet high. Inside the pyramid, sunlight is used to distill brackish water for storage. At full capacity, the pyramid may produce up to 1,000 liters of water each day. There are still some problems to be worked out including the cost of the water and ensuring equitable access to the water. But it’s a step in the right direction, right.


Above Photo: Sunny Sebastian and The Hindu Newspaper

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Water from Air: Alchemy or Reality

drinking water, general, india, international, technology, water availability, water treatment

Now, I do not state my support for this new water technology, but Air-Water Corp – a Florida-based outfit – claims to have created a machine that will effectively extract humidity from the air to produce 25 to 5,000 liters of water each day, if the conditions are right. These machines need high humidity (above 55 percent) and high temperatures (above 65 degrees) to operate. Air-Water Corp just delivered their first village-based unit to Jalimudi in Andhra Pradesh, India. The unit cost Rs. 3 lakh, that is 6,156 US dollars. It is unclear how much electricity this machine needs to operate, but it might be able to produce up to 1,000 liters of water each day.

Jalimudi Village Water Supply
Above Photo: Jalimudi Air-Water Station

Really, the concept is nothing entirely new because people have known how to take water from the air for centuries. Rainwater harvesting is used in areas with limited surface water or ground water sources. More recently, people have started to use fog nets to collect condensed water from the air. Some fog nets are able to collect up to 200 liters of water each day.

So, is it worth it to buy a machine for 6,000 US dollars that uses an unknown amount of electricity to create water from the air?

We will have to wait and ask Jalimudi village a year from now. But, one thing is for sure, the fact that Air-Water Corp is pursuing a 2 million dollar lawsuit against a sub-contractor that built these units for “repeated deliveries of faulty and sub-standard machines to Air Water’s customers” is a bit scary.

Akvopedia: Open Source for Water Technology

drinking water, general, international, investments, outreach, photos, sanitation, sustainability, technology, water availability, water treatment

The new website Akvopedia shares knowledge of water and sanitation technology, open source style, to ensure these resources are available to more people worldwide.

Open Source: (in computing) Of, or relating to a product which is licensed to permit modifications and redistribution [for free] of its source code.
Wiktionary

Linux, the One Laptop Per Child (XO laptop) project, the Mozilla web browser, Creative Commons, Peer-to-Peer networks, Open Office, and Wikipedia are multi-faceted examples of open-source technology. The open-source realm relies on a philosophy of sorts – so that freedom and sharing of a specific (or any) knowledge will allow for that specific, underlying body of knowledge to be improved upon in infinite ways.

Wikipedia, one famous example of interactive knowledge sharing, has a striking factual accuracy compared to that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Now the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) strives to create a similar clearinghouse for water and sanitation technology through the recent unveiling of Akvopedia.

Akvo = means water in Esperanto (theoretical universal language developed in the late 1800’s)


Thomas Bjelkeman, founder of Akvo. Photo courtesy Akvo on flickr.

Akvopedia features portals to discuss, share, update, and refine knowledge about:

water
sanitation, pumping and transportation, storage, treatment, and use of water
sanitation
toilets, collection, transportation, treatment, and use of products
organizations
NGOs, governmental organizations, research organizations, funding organizations, and commercial companies
approaches
project management, individual and collective, and supporting approaches

The website has reviews and specifications for building water and sanitation infrastructure from:

And the website provides a virtual setting for NGOs or others with water or sanitation project ideas to find funding. In short, Akvopedia provides access to open-source water and sanitation technology. This website will empower communities and promote localized development of water systems throughout the world by providing the knowledge, funding, and resources necessary.

Thank you Akvopedia!

With your support, Akvo can speed up the pace of water and sanitation development in some of the poorest parts of the world. Small Non-Governmental Organisations can act themselves. They can use new tools, share knowledge, specify projects, find funds and make things happen. They can be heroes. Akvo is creating an open resource, forging relationships with everyone around the world who shares this vision. We’d love to have you involved.

www.akvo.org

‘A Different Kind of Water Torture’ on the Huffington Post

architecture, drinking water, general, international, sanitation, water treatment

“With the onset of hot, humid weather and early monsoon rains, situations of water-borne diseases such as viral hepatitis (A&E), gastroenteritis, typhoid and paratyphoid fever, cholera, dysentery, E-coli diarrhoea, giardiasis and intestinal worms, malaria, dengue fever, poliomyelitis and rotavirus diarrhoea in infants – the second major cause of childhood deaths – is likely to get worse if effective prevention and control measures are not adopted religiously.”

The above was the headline from a recent edition of The News International, the second largest English language newspaper in Pakistan. This summer has shown a rampant rise of water-borne illness in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. And in Pakistan alone, each year over 1.2 people die of water-borne illnesses.

In this same vein, John Sauer of Water Advocates in Washington DC has informed me of his recent post on the Huffington Post entitled “A Different Kind of Water Torture”. As the name might suggest, this post discusses the need to increase sanitation and water conveyance projects worldwide.

Quarter of Crude, Please

drinking water, economy, international, investments, outreach, water treatment

A friend asked me the other day, “did you know that it takes about quarter of a bottle of oil to produce one bottle of water?” I didn’t, and he was right.

His simple statement, and I found myself pondering this fact. To be honest, just thinking about the concept of a quarter of a bottle of oil in a beverage container disgusted me. And it further solidified my aversion to plastic bottles.

The production of plastic PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles is an oil (natural gas and petroleum) intensive process. The Pacific Institute estimates the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil were required to produce 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006. This figure does not include the immense amount of oil used to transport bottled water around the world. (‘Fiji Water‘, oh my).

“The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.”

Iraq: Water and Politics in a War-Torn Country

drinking water, groundwater, international, iraq, middle east, water availability, water conflict, water treatment

Less than half of Iraq’s population of 29 million people have access to clean, drinkable water. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the number of civilians in Iraq without water has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent during 2003 to 2007 (the continued US occupation).


Above Photo: Child cries as a woman fills pans of water from a public water hose on open ground in Najaf, Iraq, in 2006. Alla al-Marjani/Associated Press.

Recent History of Water in Iraq

Iraq had over 140 drinking water and treatment facilities in operation in the recent past. Air attacks in the 1991 Persian Gulf War destroyed many of these plants. At the same time, UN imposed sanctions that disallowed trade between Iraq and other countries. This made import of needed chemicals and supplies for upkeep of the water facilities difficult. By 2003, Iraq’s 140 major water treatment facilities were operating at 35 percent of their design capacity. In March 2003, the US government launched a direct-attack on Iraq. The following continued war rendered useless already deteriorating water infrastructure systems across the country. Years of political upheaval, sanctions against Iraq, consistent mortar attacks, and unstable-transitional governing bodies have made maintenance of the water treatment systems almost impossible. Unsafe water is also taking its toll. Iraq saw the worst outbreak of Cholera in recorded history in 2007.


Above Photo: A man in a village in southern Iraq demonstrates how Bechtel left his village without access to clean water. BanglaPraxis.

While some measures are being taken to ensure water availability in Iraq…

UNICEF provides water on tanker trucks and distributes home-hygiene kits to civilians. UNESCO has assessed water resources available in Iraq and evaluated possible management plans. USAID has refurbished 10 water treatment plants and installed 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities. The transitional Iraqi Government has been developing water policy. The Iraq Water Project (Veterans for Peace in conjunction with LIFE) has sent small, sterilized water units for hospitals and schools and has been working to rebuild six water treatment plants in Iraq.

…these actions are not yet enough.

Natural Water Treatment in Ecuador

agriculture, drinking water, economy, international, south america, sustainability, water treatment

A village in Ecuador was recently recognized on World Water Day 2008 for an innovative yet simple approach to water treatment using aquatic lentil and water lettuce.

The people of San Rafael de la Laguna, an indigenous community of 4,700, constructed a water treatment facility along the edge of Lake Imbakucha to offset polluted discharge from local tourist facilities and agricultural practices.

The water treatment facility removes up to 90% of the contamination, and the clean water is then used for irrigation of reeds. Local artisans create furniture, crafts, and paper from the reeds, and sell the products through the Totora Sisa Cooperative.


Photo above is Lake San Pablo (Imbakucha) in Ecuador.

‘Global Water Challenge’ Competition

audio, drinking water, international, outreach, rainwater, research, sanitation, sustainability, water treatment

Ashoka’s Changemakers and Global Water Challenge have partnered to open a worldwide search for ideas and projects that, when scaled-up, have the potential to transform the provision of sanitation and water.

All entries are due by Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:00 pm EST (21:00 GMT).

Currently, over 149 entries have been received from 45 countries with ideas such as:

  • Affordable household filters that remove arsenic and microbes.
  • Biosand water filters in India.
  • Implementation of water harvesting ponds in Ethiopia.
  • Rooftop water harvesting programs.
  • Solar water-distillation for potable water.

Listen to this excerpt on the ‘Global Water Challenge’ Competition from today’s edition of Marketplace!

Raindrop Power

rainwater, sustainability, technology, water treatment

Wind, solar, waves, and rivers…

Could raindrops be another form of alternative, renewable, and sustainable energy?

Experimental research is underway by a team at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France to study the feasibility of rain and energy production, according to a recent article in New Scientist (Issue 2640, 24 January 2008, page 30).

The team used piezoelectric materials, which generate electricity with mechanical stress, to capture energy from raindrops as they hit the surface. Raindrops the size of drizzle produced approximately 2 microjoules of energy, while large raindrops produced approximately 1 millijoule of energy.

“Although the output is puny compared with that of solar panels, rain power has the advantage of working in the dark and could be used to supplement solar-powered devices.”

New Scientist

Other research is being completed around the world to review possibilities of new forms of water energy including Damless Energy, Blue Energy, and Ocean Energy Thermal Conversion (OTEC).

Animated photo courtesy Ernst Schütz.

Water Crisis in Cyprus and Climate Change

climate change, drinking water, drought, water desalination, water treatment

The small island of Cyprus is facing a fourth year of drought, with water reservoirs dwindling dry at less than 9% of original capacity. As a recent article on Reuters indicates, climate change is thought to be linked to the continued parched conditions.

Cyprus maintains a Mediterranean climate, with a rainy season between November and March of each year. Reservoirs, which supply the island with water, have time to refill during the rainy season. However, over the past four years, precipitation during winter months has been on the certain decline. The Meteorological Service of the Republic of Cyprus states:

Statistical analysis of rainfall in Cyprus reveals a decreasing trend of rainfall amounts in the last 30 year…The rate of decrease of the average precipitation in Cyprus during the 20th century was one millimeter per year.

For an island half of the size of Connecticut, residential population is approximately 788,457 people and over 2 million tourists visit the area each year. Cyprus provides water to most individuals using supply from the reservoirs, and supplements supply with two desalination plants. The current water crisis has forced the country to utilize emergency groundwater reserves, and a third temporary desalination plant will be on-line next year. As quoted from the Reuters article:

Desalination of seawater is not an ideal choice for the authorities, but it has saved Cyprus before. “We don’t desalinate lightly, without being aware of the consequences,” said Partassiades. “It is energy-consuming … and this causes (greenhouse gas) emissions Cyprus has to pay fines for.

Water restrictions have been put into effect on the island, until the situation improves, with a hope of rainfall to occur this winter.

Cyprus, with Limassol city in the background, photo courtesy, LaRezistance on flickr.

New Delhi Water Utilities Shut Down

drinking water, india, water treatment

Two major water utilities servicing New Delhi, India shut down last week due to high and untreatable ammonia concentrations in the Yamuna River. Many in New Delhi, an approximated tens of thousands of people, were without water for three days straight, and uncertain supplies of water for hours at a time over the weekend.

Yamuna Sacred
Large industries dumping waste-water into the Yamuna upstream of New Delhi, are thought to be the culprit for unexpected rises in ammonia concentrations. Water problems are not unusual in New Delhi, as the New York Times so succintly states, infrastructure is in disrepair, sources are polluted, population is on the rise, and the government is blamed with poor water management. The Yamuna River, the central source of water for New Delhi, has been battling pollution problems for many years.

Check out this recent NPR piece on the Yamuna River.

Print: Yamuna Maharani holding a garlands of lotus petals near the Yamuna River, artist unknown.

Drink water from a mud-puddle.

technology, water treatment

You could if you used the Lifestraw, a $3.00 personal water filtration device.  This filter was created for those in rural areas without access to clean water, and it removes waterborne diseases including 99.9% of bacteria and 98.7% of viruses for every 700 liters (app. 185 gallons) of water. It will filter bacteria like Cholera or viruses like Parvovirus. But it will not filter heavy metals or parasites like Giardia. See Treehugger for a brief description of this invention or the Lifestraw website for more detailed information. And try not to forget to check out this super blog post on the same issue.

Children using the Lifestraw

Short Film on Water Privitization

drinking water, economy, groundwater, water availability, water privitization, water trade, water treatment

This film, produced by the World Development Movement (WDM), gives a brief overview of the water privatization throughout the world. It is called “Dirty Aid – Dirty Water” because as entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund provided loans to developing countries, often times they did so with the stipulation that the country receiving the funding must agree to participate in a water-privatization program. Privatization of water supplies in these countries has seen many ill effects including significant increases in water prices making water less available those in need.

Will micro-financing or micro-franchising increase the use of water purification in homes in developing countries?

asia, technology, water treatment

This is a question faculty and students from University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and the Kenan Institute-Asia will attempt to answer. They will be working primarily in the Mekong Subregion of Asia. It is a main goal of the project to make available household water filters to those with no access to clean water in the home. Another aim of this research is to find a way to increase the long-term sustainability, viability, and use of these technologies. Micro-financing and micro-franchising are two models being evaluated for increasing long-term sustainability.

One way we hope to enable these technologies to reach scale is to provide small loans to people who wouldn’t qualify for conventional loans, and help them franchise small businesses. We’ve found that giving the filters or other technologies away is not sustainable and doesn’t really promote the continued use of the technology. We believe we can find models that will be successful in getting point-of-use (home) water purification products into the homes of people who need them

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this research in the Mekong Sub-region. For more information on this research, please see the press release issued by UNC.