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One World Assessment Task: Water to Drink

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Bailey Dobbs

on 1 December 2013

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Transcript of One World Assessment Task: Water to Drink

Introduction 1
Water treatment
The treatment process starts off by the water being directly transported into the plant, checked for large things which are then removed, and had coagulants added. This image shows the large amounts of muck and grime in the river, these are being drawn to the aluminium sulphate conagulant, and are floating on the surface of the river water.
The next image shows the water after the coagulated muck has been removed from the water. This shows just how bad the quality of our water is.. When the water leaves Lake Taupō, it is so clean that you can see more than 12m through it, but by the time it has made it to Auckland, at Tuakau, you can’t see your feet if the water is half way up your ankles.
The next part of the work is very interesting. The water is run through straws. Not ordinary straws, but long straws with tiny holes in them, these holes are the size of 0.035 micros across. One micron is one thousandth of a millimetres. This is extremely small, and is probably the most effective part of the treatment. Only extremely small things can get through these straws and into your tap. This stops viruses that come from bacteria, and from animal faeces in the river. These images show what the straws look like when they are out of the water.
Once the river water has made its way through the straws, it continues to the carbon filters. These special filters contain small worms and other things growing on them which filters the water to the most extremes. The worms themselves have no way of getting through the filter though. It then has some chlorine added to kill viruses and bacteria, some flourine and some lime is added to get the pH level just correct. In this image, the clean water has been restored back to its natural appearance as it was when leaving Lake Taupō.
The next image, is a picture of the water at the end of the river. This is bad. It shows all the mud and silt floating on the surface, and also shows how the quality of our water changes from what we get out of our kitchen sink, and what it looks like when it is in its natural state.
One World Assessment Task: Water to Drink
Where do the contaminants come from?
One source of the contaminants in the Waikato River is Contact’s geothermal plant (Most geothermal plants re-inject water into the reservoir after it has been used to prevent contamination and land subsidence, but this one doesn’t). Hamilton’s treated sewerage also goes into the Waikato, but only a small fraction of the pollution in the river is due to Hamilton’s sewerage and waste. A lot of the pollution also comes from “The Wairakei Power Station”. These kinds of power plants are a large source of arsenic, boron and other geothermal chemicals found in the Waikato River. The Wairakei Power Station was built in the late 1950s and since then, the amount of arsenic in the Waikato River has more than doubled. It isn’t only just geothermal plants, factories and sewage that affect water in the Waikato River, it has been proven that many of the contaminants come from Rural and Urban runoff. This is the mud and silt that is run off of the land and into the river. This kind of pollution carries all sorts of bugs and viruses into the River, and is a kind that we cannot shut down, as it happens mostly in storms.
Introduction to water
Water is an essential resource to all living creatures. Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen (H2O). Each molecule of water is made up of two hydrogen atoms bonded with a single oxygen atom. The existence of water is crucial for life on Earth. Even fruits are made up of mostly water, tomatoes are 95% water and apples are 85%. Water has three different states, liquid, solid and gas. The word water usually means water in its liquid state. Solid water is known as ice while the gas state of water is known as steam or water vapor. Water covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface, but only a small amount of it is actually drinkable. Many people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, and this causes many diseases like, Polio (poliomyelitis), Polyomavirus infection, SARS, Malaria, Lead poisoning, Hepatitis A, Cholera and many others. About 80% of the sickness and disease like this is third-world countries is water related. Only a very small 1% of the earth’s water is actually potable, but most people who do have access to it, do not see how much they are using. The amount of pollution that is found in our water is far too much for how we are living. A researcher from Cornell informed us that around 40% of all deaths worldwide are caused by pollution of water, air and soil. Everything that people in First-world countries use is related to water. If a tap drips every 10 seconds, wastes more than 1,000Litres of water in one year, this is something that isn’t thought of as a major issue, but when really looked at closely is just as big as leaving a shower on, and washing cars and using too much water. It just needs attention from people to understand what they are causing.
What types of contaminants enter the Waikato River?
The Waikato River is the largest river in New Zealand, it is 425 kilometers long, and it begins on the eastern side of Mount Ruhapehu. The river finally flows into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato after a journey from Lake Taupo. There are quite a lot of heavy metals in the Waikato River, some of it natural and some added by geothermal plants like Contact’s Geothermal Plant. The Waikato River also contains a lot of sediment, lots of nitrogen and phosphorous. This feeds algal blooms and heaps of faeces. In addition to this, there are all of the things related to faeces such as the bacteria and viruses in it. Another set potentially toxic chemical contaminants, are transferred into the Waikato River. This is geothermally contaminated sediment. The sediment accumulates at the bottom of the river, and can be a large problem in the near or distant future. This will have a huge ecological effect and will have a large effect on some organisms.
Why are the contaminants a problem?
Pollution anywhere is always a big problem, in the air, noise, light, and any other forms of pollution. This issue is heightened when it is the water that is polluted. Water is a finite resource, and one that we do not have a lot of, if the small amount of clean water is polluted, diseases and bacteria can be formed in the people that need to drink it. Arsenic levels in the river are way out of drinking water standards. This means a large amount of water treatment is needed to be able to drink the water. To reduce this problem in the river, the Ohaaki geothermal power plant and many others like this, re-inject waste geothermal fluid back into the ground. This is also beneficial for the geothermal systems themselves. Pollution of rivers and any other water sources needs to end. It is better for everyone to keep water safe and drinkable, so that is what needs to be done.
Economic Implications of using the Waikato River as a drinking water supply
One massive Economic issue is the cost that it takes to treat the water in order to make it safe to drink. There is a huge process involved in getting the extremely polluted water into a drinkable state, this very sophisticated treatment plant cost around $155m, and because of the way that the river is being treated this price continues to go up and more and more of the river is needing to be treated in order to get to drinking standards. The best water treatment is made up of five steps, as shown earlier. Money is also involved in helping to cure people if they have accumulated water related illnesses. To economy of our country has a very big relation to the use of the Waikato River as a drinking water supply because in order to fix anything there will always be a cost. The pollution in the Waikato has a huge effect on the community and the economic state of our country. Many countries have an economy far worse than New Zealand, but if people continue to pollute the Waikato River, governments are going to have to pay far more, until eventually nothing will be left. The country could potentially be left polluted and bankrupt as a worst-case scenario.
Cultural Implications of using the Waikato River as a drinking water supply
The waikato river gave the Māori tribes, that lived along the banks of the Waikato physical and spiritual nourishment. The legend was that the ‘spirits’ of their ancestors had mixed with the waters. It was sometimes referred to as ‘The Mississippi of the Māoris’. This is all relating to issues that would come about, Culturally, when it comes to drinking the Waikato it would have many issues that cannot be resolved easily within cultures. The Māori cultures and tribes could become upset that the water we are now drinking may come from their ancestor’s spirits. Because of the intense water treatment process this could look as though people are trying to wash away the memories of the people that they loved. Most cultures have strong opinions about things that mean a lot to them, and this would be much the same. People get upset and mad that their ancestors are being washed away, that their food source is being decreased, that their canoe routes are being sabotaged. I think that all these issues would come about culturally because of using the Waikato River as a drinking water supply, and because of these problems it is not always the best idea.
Social Implications of using the Waikato River as a drinking water supply
The social issues relating to drinking the Waikato water supply is simply that it is often not safe to drink. The country is polluting the water and by drinking it they are not being safe. This is affecting everyone because numerous fatal diseases can be caused by dirty and polluted water, diseases such as Polio (poliomyelitis), Polyomavirus infection, SARS, Malaria, Lead poisoning, Hepatitis A, Cholera and many others. A lot of people swim and play in areas of the Waikato River, but if rubbish and mud continues to run into the river this will not be possible for children in the very near future. Citizens of New Zealand don't notice the huge changes they are making to the environment of the country, things like tipping paint into drains also pollutes the Waikato, and stopping these silly things occurring is simple. It obviously doesn't have as big an effect as pollutants like the geothermal plants, but everything adds up. It is important that people understand that they can affect the state of the Waikato, and that they can make a difference in the safety and cleanliness of our environment.
What are some implications of using the Waikato river as a potable (drinking) water supply?
Introduction 2
Most of the water on the earth has been around in some way since the dinosaurs roamed Earth. The amount of water on earth has been pretty much the same throughout time, constantly being recycled through the atmosphere. The main problem cauing the global water crisis, is the population, it is growing by nearly 1 billion every 15 year, so as the amount of people drinking this water goes up, the task of finding water becomes much more difficult. For most people in first world countries, water scarcity (or the global water crisis) is just another thing happening around the world, but for people being affected by not being able to get the sufficient water for their survival, it is everything. The saddest thing is that 80 countries now have shortages of water and around 2 billion people don’t have access to clean water. And worse, the World Health Organization has reported that 1 billion people don’t even have enough water to simply meet their basic needs. The countries with the least freshwater resources at the moments, are Egypt and United Arab Emirates, whereas the highest are Suriname and Iceland.
Solar or UV treatment
UV treatment comes under the range of Solar Treatment, along with Electric and Heat, UV rays come from the sun. The ultraviolet light is used to rid water of bacteria and viruses along with protozoa and worms. The only things is, that the disinfecting treatment may not make water all kinds of water able to drink due to non-biological things like toxic chemical and heavy metals. This means that extra things may be required to make the water clean enough to drink. This treatment works manly on small amounts of water that is usually kept in a confined space. UV treatment is often done in water tanks, to make sure that water going into peoples taps, is hygienic, clean and safe from disease. This is UV treatment. Solar treatment on the other hand is less sturdy but still is proven to work. It has been proven that when water is exposed to the sunlight (solar rays), it makes certain organisms in polluted water that cause diseases to be deactivated.
Life straw is literally a straw, which acts as a water filter that is designed to be used by a single person to filter water so that it is safe to drink. It can filter up to 1000 litres of water, and that is enough for one person to drink for one year. It removes almost all bacteria and parasites found in water. There is a family version, much like this but it is larger, and is designed for an entire family rather than just a single person, this can filter up to a giant 18000 litres of water, and can provide safe drinking water for a five person family for up to 3 years. They were made for people living in developing nations and to be given out in natural disasters. Some examples of disasters that they were distributed in are the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan Floods, and the 2011 Thailand floods. In addition to this, the Mutomo District in Kenya, which has suffered from long-term droughts, has been given filters in order to help with their crisis. There were 3,750 handed out to children in schools and 6,750 filters given to family households. Life straw is an extremely useful and helpful organisation that allows people without access to clean, safe and healthy drinking water, to be able to drink the water in their village or area, without it being dangerous to their health.
There are many different ways that Science can be used to help to stop the global water crisis. One of these is the desalination process. Desalination is one of humankind’s earliest forms of water treatment, and it is still a popular water treatment throughout the world to this day. It is used to remove salt from water. The most commonly used form of desalination is Reverse Osmosis; this is where you push the salt water, through extremely fine membranes, at a very high pressure. It can remove up to 99% of salts and other matter. Desalination is possibly the single treatment of water that nearly completely decreases the almost all water contaminants. Desalination, is the process most often used in emergencies, small pods are placed in safety kits on boats, as an easy way to get drinkable water while surrounded by seawater. It collects water, heats it so that the water evaporates into a separate container, and then releases the salt. This process is then repeated continuously. There are many different ways that the desalination process can be carried out, and these are the two most popular. Desalination is generally the most simple and easy way to make water clean and drinkable. It has been used by many different people and in many different times, and is still used today, in boats and sea vehicles, and even in third world countries that need water to live.
How is science applied and how may it be used to address the global water crisis?
How effective are these scientific systems in solving the global water crisis?
All of these solutions do assist, in trying to stop the global water crisis but are they practical. There are many different places where people have used these treatments, like the desalination pods. People use these to collect water on ships and submarines, or if stranded in the ocean. They don’t use them as much in third-world countries. The next one up is the use of solar or UV treatment. Some countries involved in the water crisis use solar treatment. There are many different situations where people have filled bottles of water and put them on dark roofs in sweltering heat, because it has shown that the solar rays decrease organisms that cause diarreha. Of the three solutions, lifestraw is probably the best option to use for helping with the water crisis in third world countries. It can be given out to people who need in order to give them quick access to clean water. The only issue involved in this, is that they need to be made and handed out to people, but what there aren’t enough, or people cannot get access to the filters, because the provider doesn’t understand the size of the issue. This is a rating of three different ways of filtering water in order of how they are helping out the crisis.
What are the implications of the use and application of these systems?
The development of desalination plants today, is held back because big plants use a large quantity of energy and to be specific, expensive infrastructure. The cost of desalinated water relies mainly on the traits of each plant. Mainly things like the capacity, the location, the intensity of salt in the water that it originated from, the source of energy and the use of technology. These things are the factors that determine the cost of the water, once desalinated. Some examples are, that buying desalinated water from the Perth metropolitan is estimated to cost around $1.17 for each kilolitre, whereas if you were to buy supplies from traditional water sourced it costs on $1 per kilolitre. In some countries that are further away from the ocean, (places like New Delhi, and Mexico City) it is often cheaper to simply transfer water away from traditional resources, than to actually desalinate it themselves. Energy is the most expensive thing relating to desalination plants. It is usually responsible for ⅓up to ½ of the cost of desalination. So that means that the cost of desalinated water (fresh water) is the most vulnerable to energy prices than any other water source. Scientific predictions give evidence that the need for desalination worldwide will almost triple over the next 4 years, this could result in a possible global desalination market that will go over $30 billion by 2016
The desalintaion process is very bad for the environment and has to mains ways. It causes environmental harm the the emission of greenhouse gases and through harm to the marine environment. This is dangerous for firstly, the water because it means that the ratio of salt to water can be hamful to the fish and other sea creatures. This is because, when we are using salt water to carry out the process of desalination we are removing large amounts of water, and leaving the salt remaining. The salt continues to dissolve into the ocean, and then there is no balance. If humans don’t save water, it could result in us having to use desalination much, much more than usual. Conserving water can have a huge difference in everyday lives, but if people don’t try and help, the desalination process could be everywhere, causing problems both on land and in the ocean. Another issue that comes from Desalination is the emission of greenhouse gasses. Most desalination plants in operation at the moment and in the near future use energy from fossil fuels or nuclear power. The generation of energy from both of these things holds mixed environmental issues. This means that as the number of desalination plants grows increases it would result in a much bigger reliance on fossil fuels and therefore more greenhouse gasses would be emitted which is just one more cause of climate change.
What are the implications of the use and application of these systems?
There is at least one very important, and life-threatening issue that relates to UV treatment. The Ultraviolet rays have recently been held responsible for some incidences of skin cancers around the world, and though this is a huge problem, what some people don’t know, is that UV rays are also very beneficial for humans. In 1903 there was a Nobel Prize for medicine awarded because of the discovery of UV rays as a useful treatment for a large range of illnesses. The right amount of UV ray exposure does have protective effects to fight against cancer. But this is the problem. People in third-world countries do not have medical education to this extent. They use UV rays because they know that it can help with certain medical things. They know that it can make water cleaner and more drinkable, what they don’t know is that it is also potentially killing them. So far, cures for cancer are not around, so we need to be careful when it comes to the use of UV and make sure we are only using it for the good in it, and not the bad, and make good use of the medicine.
People in first-world countries often use water tanks and the solar rays do their work from there. But in more developing countries, they do not have that luxury. Many people use the roves of houses, especially the dark ones so that the sun is attracted to it. They water is then handed out to the people who need it in the villages, and then once they have used the water, the bottles that were used are thrown away. These bottles are the exact things that cause harm to fish and other animals. Usually the red plastics are the ones that are mistaken as food (plankton), but other sea creatures often get clear plastics stuck in their throat. This causes many, of these animals to die. These creatures are a very important part of the food chain. So these simple bottles being thrown into the ocean can have a massive affect on the whole world. Sea creatures such as whales and sharks are not as affected by the plastic bottles as the smaller animals are, but once the small fish have it inside of them, it can affect most everything in the ocean. The middle creatures eat the fish and then the whales eat them. Essentially all of the animals could potentially die because of these bottles. Even though some countries have over 10% death rates caused by diarrhoeal diseases and others microorganisms like this.
Solar or UV treatment
What are the implications of the use and application of these systems?
Following on from the previous statement, this would be overly expensive. The cost to buy a Lifestraw filter at the moment is $20.00, if they are not being handed out as donations to people in developing countries or places experiencing natural disasters. Lifestraw runs off of paid filters and donations sent in, in order to keep their business going. Because lifestraws are unable to be reused or recycled, the cost will have to go up, as new devices have to be made each time. If the straws were given back to the makers, then the pieces like the outer shells and hard plastics can be reused. I think that the makers of Lifestraw could manage their economic state better, and use the parts to their advantage, and that the Economic implications are quite big. If people weren’t willing to pay money to the foundation, whether it is donations or paying for an actual filter, then the programme wouldn’t be able to run as successfully.
Lifestraw products are an amazing invention, they give water to the people that do not have access to it. There is one issue that the creators of Lifestraw haven’t quite found a solution to, that is how best to dispose of the filter straws. Because the straws have a set deadline of the amount of litres it can take, what happens once they are finished with, do they get discarded for something else to be done with them, or are they neatly disposed of by the manufacturer? As the single person lifestraws at the moments, only have a short time span of around one year, this is a very small amount of time, if the manufacturers were to come and collect the used straws to prevent pollution it would require much more time and effort on their behalf. Currently option 1 is the most likely. Because these are develpoing countries that we are talking about, it isn’t like they have the money to suddenly just conjure up a machine to break down plastic, or pay someone to fix and remodel the filters. The outer shell of the straw is made of “high impact polystyrene”, a commonly used plastic that can be recycled. But, polystyrene is not biodegradable and is the material that is often used in cups and plastic bags. To make the issue even more difficult to overcome, you cannot simply replace one part of the filter, but entire new straws must be distributed to every user. The best idea would be to make the straw biodegradable or to have the manufacturers come collect the Lifestraws/ have collector bins in the area, after a certain period of time, and then have a new one replacing the finished one. However this issue needs more consideration to be given to ensure proper disposal of the straws at the end of their life-time in order to stop huge dumping of polystyrene bottles, the lifestraws.
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