Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Five Reasons You Should Be Choosing Tap water Instead of Bottled Water

Bottled water is overrated. You are often paying more money for bottled water, which is simply tap water that has been put in a bottle with a fancy label on it. Many of the bottled water companies promise purer water, with more minerals and better health. This has increased demand tremendously for bottled water and in the US, the bottled water industry was estimated to have a value of $60 billion (USD)

Read the Paradox of Fiji bottled water

1. Higher price and often worse quality
Water is a natural resource which is freely available to most of the people on earth at a minimal cost. It is still astonishing to see the amount of bottled water being sold in the US considering that the price is 10.000 times that of its municipal counterpart - tap water. In reality, all water is "healthy" as long as it doesn't possess high levels of harmful contaminants, which tap water does not. Many studies have compared tap water with bottled water

See the ABC 20/20 documentary showing now differences between bottled and tap water : Link

2. The environment

The biggest environmental problems caused by bottled water are the plastic PET bottles. Did you know that between 32-54 million barrels of oil is used to produce 33 billion liters of bottled water. A recent study (Gleick & Cooley) which documents this also estimates that the energy needed to produce bottled water accounts for about one-third of one percent of total US energy consumption. They cost a lot of energy to produce, estimated at 2.000 times the amount of energy to produce the equivalent amount of tap water.

Water bottles are only sometimes recycled. Unfortunately almost all plastic bottles for water are currently made from virgin PET, so people trying to convince you that everything is being recycled is not telling you the truth. According to a NAPCOR study, the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4% whilst water bottles account for about 50% of all PET bottles and containers picked up by roadside trash recycling.

The story of bottled water (MUST SEE!): Link

3. Bigger Chance of Harmful Chemicals in Bottled Water
In a recent NRDC study, where 22 percent of bottled water brands were tested, at least one sample of  contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. The problem in the United States is that the bottled water is regulated by the FDA, whereas the EPA regulates the quality of tap water. The EPA has set maximum contaminant levels for approximately 90 contaminants which if discovered will be reported immediately to prevent any damages. On the contrary, bottled water contamination rarely reaches the public, as would it if it had been public drinking water. The companies making a living out of selling bottled water have an image to uphold, and damaging information is likely to be guarded fiercely.

4. Higher Chance of Estrogenic Chemical Pollution
Another study, conducted by the Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water in plastic containers was polluted with estrogenic chemicals.  Some of the bottled water contained in glass were also found to be polluted with chemicals as well, but the researchers believe the contamination of water in the plastic containers to come from the plastic containers. Leaching of chemicals into the water is related to the plastic bottles being exposed to either cold and high temperatures.

These estrogenic chemicals have now also been found in fish as we continue to pollute our waters. Read more about what these chemicals are doing to fish here: Link

5. Is bottled water just treated tap water?
Some bottled water companies just purify municipal tap water and bottle it. According to the following CNN video, up to 25% of bottled water is actually just purified tap water, and sometimes it is not even purified!

See the CNN Video: Link

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A Critique of Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (R.O.) is one of the most renowned water treatment solutions available on the market. From afar R.O. is a wonderful system that has been instrumental in the challenge of providing clean drinking water for everyone. However taking a closer look at R.O., there are some clear indicators that the system is not a sustainable solution in the long run for curing the water crisis.

Issue 1 - Maintenance
Reverse Osmosis systems require a lot of maintenance in order to retain high quality water output. There are many aspects of the R.O. system that mus be maintained, serviced and changed in order to retain high water purity. If not done, then membrane fouling and breakdown may occur. Another concern is that most of the systems have a holding tank that must be cleaned out regularly to prevent growth of bacteria.

Issue 2 - Fouling and Breakdown of Membranes
As described in Issue 1, R.O. machines require a lot of expensive maintenance, and if this is not scheduled properly then membranes may break down or begin to foul, resulting in water that smells so bad that it would keep people from drinking it. To solve this, new membranes have to be bought repeatedly adding to the operational costs, and the system needs to be cleaned to keep from fouling. Some manufacturers state that membranes last for several years, the fact is that they do not.

Issue 3 - Level of Water Purity
R.O. machines claim that they remove around 98-99% of all organic chemicals, whereas a simple carbon filter will do the exact same (and cost you much less). After a few months of operation, this percentage will fall to around 50-80%. Purity levels stated by manufacturers are rarely met in environments outside the laboratory, which means that when put to work the water will not meet the specified quality.

Issue 4 - Reverse Osmosis is Extremely Slow
The Reverse Osmosis process is very slow compared to its relatively large size system. If the situation requires quick response and output then R.O. is not the ideal choice.

Issue 5 - Reverse Osmosis uses a lot of Electricity
The Reverse Osmosis system places heavy demands on electricity in order to provide clean drinking water. A system which is supposed to improve environmental conditions is essentially offsetting its pollution in another form, which does not improve the carbon footprint of users.

See an electricity comparison with another solution

Issue 6 - Reverse Osmosis uses Chemicals to Clean Water
Reverse Osmosis needs chemicals in order to treat drinking water, these chemicals not only cost a lot of money, they are also bad for health and the environment. Here is a list of a few chemicals that a typical R.O. unit may use: membrane antiscalants and scale inhibitors, membrane preservatives, cleaners, biocides and disinfectants, flocculants, corrosion inhibitors, and de-chlorinators. Mostly, all of the disinfectants except chlorine are expensive, however chlorine is not recommended due to its property of reacting with organic contaminants and generating toxic by-products.

Issue 7 - Reverse Osmosis Wastes a Lot of Water
The objective of a water treatment system is to clean water, not to waste it. It is roughly estimated that a Reverse Osmosis machines wastes 3 gallons of water for every gallon it produces. This inefficiency not only means wasted time, but also a lot more electricity and pollution.

Issue 8 - Must be Compatible with the Water Supply
The R.O. system must be matched to the incoming water supply in order to obtain high levels of purity. This means that whether or not the water is already chlorinated and can often have associated installation costs for the buyer.

Issue 9 - Reverse Osmosis Concentrates Dangerous Chemicals
An American Medical Association (AMA) publication has found that Reverse Osmosis was found to concentrate dangerous heavy metals mercury and aluminium, which can be linked with extensive neurological disorders. Nearly every municipal water system uses aluminum compounds in water treatment process.

Issue 10 - Reverse Osmosis units cannot filter out pharmaceuticals
An increasing problem is the pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Unfortunately, R.O. systems cannot filter out these small molecules as they simple pass through the porous membranes of the R.O. filter meaning that it ends up in the final water product.

See a video describing the pharmaceuticals in water

Issue 11 - Creates acidic water & strips minerals
Reverse osmosis, like distillation, creates fairly acidic water, and it also strips the water of important minerals. Additionally, it is contended that R/O destabilizes the molecular structure of water.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Good Water Hunting

How can the message effectively be spread? Today there are many attempts at spreading the news about the rising global water crisis, but people taking water for granted rarely pay attention. Social media is often thought of as a great medium for spreading messages, but without any apparent kickback value for the user, your message will not gain any snowball effect. We continue to spread the word about clean water treatment solutions, but it seems no one is willing to listen, why should they if it does not affect them? Before Christmas we even hosted a competition asking people to participate in a quiz, and the winner would be able to make a donation on behalf of the company to the third world. In the end, a water catastrophe pack was donated to India. Only about 3-5% of our "following" participated even considering that their actions could benefit people who needed the help.

Fortunately, there are some passionate people out there with a bigger voice. Today, people with far reach, due to their popularity often promote or spread the word about a good cause. Recently, Matt Damon (who starred in "Good Will Hunting") gave a compelling interview about the water crisis.

See the full interview:

He even describes a water well in Ethiopia where kids are pulling water out that is the same color as chocolate milk. This water is what kids bring to school, and often it can be so dangerous to drink that deaths result from it. According to Water.org, a child dies every 20 seconds from water related diseases - an extremely scary figure.

The video then discusses what has been called WaterCredits which is basically a small loan that lets people without clean water, get a direct source of water into their home instead of having to walk to a well. The loan is often repaid at a high rate, and seems to be the way forward in some of these communities.

It is good to see some of these famous people using their star status to spread goodwill messages rather than just promoting the latest perfume or handbag.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Global Water Crisis


Most of us take water for granted on a daily basis. In the morning we wake up, wash our face, drink a cup of coffee, rinse fresh fruit, clean our dirty dishes, take a shower, brush our teeth and on some occasions we remember to drink a part of our daily recommendation of 2.5 Liters of water. We have not been awake for more than a couple of hours, and already we have completed some of our everyday tasks that we take for granted.

See: 11 million people without access to clean water in Mexico

Unfortunately, this scenario cannot be shared by everyone. Today there are over 880 million people lacking access to clean, healthy drinking water. That is roughly 1 out of every 8 people on the planet. An astonishing number, which will only increase as we continue to place heavy demands on our depleting planet. The increased industrial activity of the BRIC countries has not only increased the amount of pollution that our environment must deal with, but it also increases demand of its' people on the local water resources.

See also this article: Global Water Crisis

This increasing global challenge of providing clean, healthy drinking water is becoming a more pressing matter. Something needs to be done.

Fortunately, there are some technologies out there that will help future generations get access to clean water. Something we will look closer at in the coming days.