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Friday, March 07, 2008

Sewage Added to Drinking Water

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking

From the New York Times (original article here)

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking
Axel Koester for The New York Times

This Orange County, Calif., Water District plant will purify sewer water to feed drinking water supplies, but not directly to the tap.

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.

After a process of microfiltration, chemicals, ultraviolet light and reverse osmosis, the treated sewer water will be injected underground to refill aquifers.
But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

The San Diego City Council approved a pilot plan in October to bolster a drinking water reservoir with recycled sewer water. The mayor vetoed the proposal as costly and unlikely to win public acceptance, but the Council will consider overriding it in early December.

Water officials in the San Jose area announced a study of the issue in September, water managers in South Florida approved a plan in November calling for abundant use of recycled wastewater in the coming years in part to help restock drinking water supplies, and planners in Texas are giving it serious consideration.

“These types of projects you will see springing up all over the place where there are severe water shortages,” said Michael R. Markus, the general manager of the Orange County district, whose plant, which will process 70 million gallons a day, has already been visited by water managers from across the globe.

The finished product, which district managers say exceeds drinking water standards, will not flow directly into kitchen and bathroom taps; state regulations forbid that.

Instead it will be injected underground, with half of it helping to form a barrier against seawater intruding on groundwater sources and the other half gradually filtering into aquifers that supply 2.3 million people, about three-quarters of the county. The recycling project will produce much more potable water and at a higher quality than did the mid-1970s-era plant it replaces.

The Groundwater Replenishment System, as the $481 million plant here is known, is a labyrinth of tubing and tanks that sucks in treated sewer water the color of dark beer from a sanitation plant next door, and first runs it through microfilters to remove solids. The water then undergoes reverse osmosis, forcing it through thin, porous membranes at high pressure, before it is further cleansed with peroxide and ultraviolet light to break down any remaining pharmaceuticals and carcinogens.

The result, Mr. Markus said, “is as pure as distilled water” and about the same cost as buying water from wholesalers.

Recycled water, also called reclaimed or gray water, has been used for decades in agriculture, landscaping and by industrial plants.

And for years, treated sewage, known as effluent, has been discharged into oceans and rivers, including the Mississippi and the Colorado, which supply drinking water for millions.

But only about a dozen water agencies in the United States, and several more abroad, recycle treated sewage to replenish drinking water supplies, though none here steer the water directly into household taps. They typically spray or inject the water into the ground and allow it to percolate down to aquifers.

Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, among the most arid places in Africa, is believed to be the only place in the world that practices “direct potable reuse” on a large-scale, with recycled water going directly into the tap water distribution system, said James Crook, a water industry consultant who has studied the issue.

The projects are costly and often face health concerns from opponents.

Such was the case on Nov. 6 in Tucson, where a wide-ranging ballot measure that would have barred the city from using purified water in drinking water supplies failed overwhelmingly. The water department there said it had no such plans but the idea has been discussed in the past.

John Kromko, a former Arizona state legislator who advocated for the prohibition, said he was skeptical about claims that the recycling process cleanses all contaminants from the water and he suggested that Tucson limit growth rather than find new ways to feed it.

“We really don’t know how safe it is,” he said. “And if we controlled growth we would never have to worry about drinking it.”

Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, in vetoing the City Council plan there, said it “is not a silver bullet for the region’s water needs” and the public has never taken to the idea in the 15 years it has been discussed off and on.

Although originally estimated at $10 million for the pilot study in San Diego, water department officials said the figure would be refined, and the total cost of the project might be hundreds of millions of dollars. Although the Council wants to offset the cost with government grants and other sources, Mr. Sanders predicted it would add to already escalating water bills.

“It is one of the most expensive kinds of water you can create,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the mayor. “It is a large investment for a very small return.”

San Diego, which imports about 85 percent of its water because of a lack of aquifers, asked residents this year to curtail water use.

Here in Orange County, the project, a collaboration between the water and sanitation districts, has not faced serious opposition, in part because of a public awareness and marketing campaign.

Early on, officials secured the backing of environmental groups, elected leaders and civic groups, helped in part by the fact the project eliminated the need for the sanitation district to build a new pipe spewing effluent into the ocean.

Orange County began purifying sewer water in 1976 with its Water Factory 21, which dispensed the cleansed water into the ground to protect groundwater from encroaching seawater.

That plant has been replaced by the new one, with more advanced technology, and is intended to cope with not only current water needs but also expectations that the county’s population will grow by 500,000 by 2020.

Still, said Stephen Coonan, a water industry consultant in Texas, such projects proceed slowly.

“Nobody is jumping out to do it,” he said. “They want to make sure the science is where it should be. I think the public is accepting we are investigating it.”

Friday, July 27, 2007

More on Knowing the Source: It's Tap Water

From the Associated Press http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/07/27/ap3960953.html

Aquafina Labels: It's Tap Water

By VINNEE TONG 07.27.07, 11:37 AM ET

NEW YORK - The label on Aquafina water bottles will soon be changed to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water, the brand's owner said Friday.

A group called Corporate Accountability International has been pressuring bottled water sellers to curb what it calls misleading marketing practices.

Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled "P.W.S." The new labels will spell out "public water source."

"If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do," PepsiCo (nyse: PEP - news - people ) spokeswoman Michelle Naughton said Friday.

The corporate accountability group is also pressing for similar concessions from The Coca-Cola Co. (nyse: KO - news - people ), which owns the Dasani water brand.

Dasani's Web site says that Dasani comes from local water supplies and is then filtered.

"We don't believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water," Coca-Cola spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante said. "The label clearly states that it is purified water."

Sales of bottled water has been a growing source of revenue for companies such as PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., and Atlanta-based Coca-Cola as they lessen their dependence on sales of traditional carbonated sodas, as consumer concern over health issues has weakened demand.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The importance of the source of your water

Don't be misled to believe all tap water is safe.
Even highly regulated tap water can be contaminated--
by the source from which it flows.

Drinker beware--as is evidenced by this story.

Presenting a yucky truth
By Winston Ross
The Register-Guard
Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Entire story at: http://www.registerguard.com/news/2007/06/06/a1.water.0606.p1.php?section=cityregion

Which would you rather drink from?

NORTH BEND - Kyleray Katherman had a feeling the drinking fountains at his school were "gross." But it wasn't until he applied a little science to the spigots that he discovered just how right he was.

For an English assignment, Katherman tested the bacteria content at four North Bend Middle School water fountains and one toilet to challenge a four-year-old policy that banned students from bringing bottled water into class (some were sneaking in alcohol that way).

Guess which sample was cleaner? Hint: It wasn't the water fountains.

The way Katherman made his point shocked his classmates, teachers, the school's administrators and members of the school board, who had no idea just how gross a water fountain could be.

Katherman attends the Oregon Coast Technology School, a charter school that operates at the middle school with a focus on infusing technology into the curriculum, be it in science, math or in this case, English. Students use digital cameras, computers, scanners and the Internet to bolster their education, and they often earn credit on the same project in two or three separate subjects.

This assignment was pure English, but Katherman, 13, used what he'd learned in science class about growing bacteria to inform his presentation. When he needed help, he marched into a campus lab to get it.

The project was simple: Armed with a Q-tip and a petri dish, Katherman swabbed the spigots of four drinking fountains and one toilet, dunking the cotton in the bowl's center and then dragging it around the rim so he'd get a complete sample.

Then he took the results back to the lab and shone a light on the dish to speed up the bacteria's growth, via photosynthesis.

Each of the drinking fountain samples resulted in petri dishes swimming with bacteria. The toilet sample, by comparison, turned out mouth-wateringly clean, likely because it's doused with cleansing chemicals daily. Before revealing where each sample came from, he asked his classmates which water they'd prefer to drink.

They chose the toilet.

"I wanted to see the looks on their faces," Katherman said.

Katherman's presentation also explained the importance of drinking water to the brain's function, and recommendations that students drink between eight and 12 8-ounce glasses each day. Either bring back the water bottles, Katherman urged, or install "down-pour" systems, the kind used in office water coolers. His classmates voted that Katherman take his message to the school's site council, which advised him to take his presentation to the next North Bend School Board meeting.

It didn't take long for the eye-opening PowerPoint to bring about change. Administrators quickly replaced the spigots and casing at three of the water fountains Katherman had tested, and custodians gave them all a thorough cleaning. There's no plan on reversing the bottle ban but more teachers are providing water in their classrooms, Katherman said.

"It was a great lesson. We don't always see things in and about the school that are in need of repair," said Scott Edmondson, the school's principal, adding, "You'd be surprised how clean the water is in a toilet."

Katherman's teacher, Barb Becker, said other students also are bringing about changes - even before they write essays. Administrators noticed them taking pictures of broken lockers, for example, and fixed them.

"The kids got to see that, yes, they can make a difference, if they do it right," Becker said.

One key difference is at the fountains themselves. Even though they've been cleaned, Katherman said, "There's not as long a line."


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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Add Yourself to the Vita Genesis Map

Friday, April 13, 2007

Toxic Water in West Virginia

VIDEO: Toxic West Virginia

Everyone knows that coal mining is an ugly business, but seeing its full effects is not something many people get to do.

Now, in an extraordinary new series of independent documentary shorts, web-based VBS TV investigate the staggering environmental and human health cost of coal mining in West Virginia, USA.

View the video about Water and see what coal mining has brought to the drinking water supply in West Virginia.

Thank you to Independent Presidential Founding Associate, Terry Rhoades for sharing this information. See the other 4 parts of the series on West Virginia on Terry's blog -Click Here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Water More Valuable Than Oil?

Freshwater Becoming More Scarce
The United Nations estimates that by 2050 more than two billion people in 48 countries will lack sufficient water. Approximately 97 percent to 98 percent of the water on planet Earth is saltwater (the estimates vary slightly depending on the source). Much of the remaining freshwater is frozen in glaciers or the polar ice caps. Lakes, rivers and groundwater account for about 1 percent of the world’s potentially usable freshwater.

If global warming continues to melt glaciers in the polar regions, as expected, the supply of freshwater may actually decrease. First, freshwater from the melting glaciers will mingle with saltwater in the oceans and become too salty to drink. Second, the increased ocean volume will cause sea levels to rise, contaminating freshwater sources along coastal regions with seawater.

Complicating matters even further is that 95 percent of the world’s cities continue to dump raw sewage into rivers and other freshwater supplies, making them unsafe for human consumption.

The Need for Freshwater is Increasing Rapidly
Yet, while freshwater supplies are at best static, and at worst decreasing, the world’s population is growing rapidly. The United Nations estimates that the world population—approximately 6.5 billion in 2006—will grow to 9.4 billion by 2050.

The cost of water is usually set by government agencies and local regulators. Water isn't traded on commodity exchanges, but many utilities stocks are publicly traded. Meanwhile, investments in companies that provide desalinization, and other processes and technologies that may increase the world’s supply of freshwater, are growing rapidly.

Companies Investing in Water
General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt said the scarcity of clean water around the world will more than double GE’s revenue from water purification and treatment by 2010—to a total of $5 billion.

GE’s strategy is for its water division to invest in desalinization and purification in countries that have a shortage of freshwater. Saudi Arabia is expected to invest more than $80 billion in desalinization plants and sewer facilities by 2025 to meet the needs of its growing population. And while China is home to 20 percent of the world’s people, only 7 percent of the planet’s freshwater supply is located there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Global warming could cause severe municipal water shortages, says Nobel Prize winner

Water could be the first casualty of global warming.

The rising temperature of Earth is causing water sources such as glaciers and lakes to rapidly retreat, according to, among others, Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the leading scientific figures trying to get more research funding for alternative energy.

Steven Chu The effects of declining water supplies will be noticeable and harsh, according to Chu, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. Some effects can already be seen, he said.

"The Yellow River is now running dry in summertime," Chu said during a speech at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco this week.

The Yellow River is fed by glacier and snowmelt from the Himalayas, which is declining. A huge portion of the world's population gets water from the Himalayas, so this is not a good sign for other areas as well.

In the United States, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and Nevada is expected to decline by 30 percent to 70 percent by 2100, he said.

If it declines by 20 percent, people will be told to stop watering their lawns or flushing toilets often. A decline of about 50 percent or greater could rewrite the demographics of California. And a massive decline in the snowpack could cause a collapse of the agriculture industry, prompting a migration out of the state, Chu said.

Snow may actually increase in some mountain ranges and parts of the world. Many expect that dry regions will become drier, while wet regions will become rainier. Warming, however, will prevent this extra rain and snow from getting stored in mountains, he said. Thus, a lot of it will run off before it can be used.

"(Water) is probably the first thing that will hit home," he said. "The water storage problem is becoming a mess."