Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Low Cost Filtration System for Africa

Children collecting water

Two students at Penn State’s School of International Affairs developed a low-cost water filtration system which can be used in many parts of Africa. Kory Hansen and Jin Ju Kim are part of the school’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program. Their challenge was to use no more than 2 people and no more than $200 in just 2 days to create a water filter based on resources available in Africa.

When the students tested the filters on campus, it removed 99.9% of bacteria and would drastically help a communty’s water burden if the system could be recreated in Africa. An integral part of the design of the filter was its commitment to local African resources in order to ensure sustainablilty in the future.

Naturally, Kim and Hansen hit obstacles during their quest for clean water, especially once they arrived in Africa. Other than the language barriers, they said the people were warm, welcoming, and very eager to help them with their project. They have both decided to continue their work with this project and other non-profit groups to help those in Africa. Nearly 3.4 million people die each year from lack of access to clean water. Millions more have to walk miles to retrieve water for their family or community, but more often than not, the water is not fit for drinking. Luckily, many people in Africa may have the opportunity to begin filtering their water thanks to these two students from Penn State’s HESE program!

The Global Water Crisis

You've probably been hearing more and more about the growing concern for the global water crisis. Frequently, countries like India, China, and many African nations are mentioned when discussing the need for clean drinking water. Many people don't realize that the water crisis also hits us at home and our neighbor, Canada.

Love the Earth

Climate change and population explosion are just two factors in the global water crisis. Nearly 800 million people worldwide don't have access to clean drinking water and another 2.5 billion are without sanitation. It's expected by the year 2030, the worldwide demand for water will outweigh supply by 40%.

Many people think Canada has one of the most abundant fresh water supplies in the world, however it only has about 2.5% of the world's supply. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and reduced spending, the Canadian government has done very little to enact federal regulations on conservation and water quality for its citizens. What regulations and standards the Canadian government does have, many people feel it is old and outdated.

 

In America, many regions used to face water restrictions in the hottest parts of the summer. Now, those restrictions are lasting most, if not all of the year. Due to farm waste runoff, septic system discharge, and pesticide residue, one in three US lakes are not fit for swimming. In addition to gross stuff in our lakes and rivers, there are signs on the piers of the San Francisco Bay warning those who fish that the fish eaten from that bay may be hazardous to your health.

 

There are many ways you can do your part to help the global water crisis. It's important to conserve as much water as you can by using filtered water instead of bottled, taking shorter showers, and planting water-saving plants in your yard. Every step you take, no matter how small, will help ensure we have enough fresh water for the world in the future.

Are You Ready for Spring?

Even though Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and New Years were a short time ago, spring is quietly sneaking up on us. Whether you're ready or not, it will be time to beautify your lawn and yard in just a short time. When you're planting this year, take time to plant water-conserving species to help you save water.

Plants

As more and more states are affected by droughts each year, many cities and towns impose water restrictions on its residents. Because water used for irrigation is good enough to be drinking water in many areas, we are only contributing to the clean water crisis. Two key components in water conservation is planning and management.

 

If your soil has high organic matter, like all the good stuff that comes from compost, it will help keep the soil fluffy rather than compacting. When soil is fluffy, water can travel more easily to the roots of plants to help keep them hydrated. Using mulch,even in the summer,is a great way to help your plants. Mulch keeps soil from losing water during evaporation. 

PRO TIP: Use a two to four inch layer of mulch around the base of your plants. It will also help reduce the amount of weeds that may pop up. 

 

When planning your landscape, stick to native plants which require infrequent waterings. Many plants can still be beautiful, but have evolved and adapted to live in your home's climate. Another characteristic of water-conserving plants are deep roots. Many home and garden centers are now labeling plants as native or water-saving, so be sure to look for these when shopping. Keep in mind that the native plants your cousins grow in Maine probably won't work if you live in Kansas.

 

To further maximize your landscaping efforts, be sure to know your area's hardiness zone and to get plants that can withstand the winters. The last thing you want is have a beautiful, water-conserving landcape in the spring, summer, and fall, only to lose it during the cold winter. 

PRO TIP: Check out the US National Arboretum's Hardiness Zone Map to help. 

 

Now, go start planning and planting! 

Is Your Water Fluoridated? Ask Your Dentist!

When you visit your dentist, it's highly likely he knows if your water is fluoridated. Since America began fluoridating many municipal water supplies, dentists claim to see healthier teeth in their patients. In communities where water is not fluoridated, dentists can quickly pick out a non-native because these patients tend to have fewer fillings and less tooth decay.

Dentist
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has deemed fluoridation to be one of the top 10 greatest public health acheivments of the 20th Century. The EPA also has allowably safe levels of fluoride in the water to minmize the risk of fluoridosis. However, even with the constant monitoring of fluoride levels, many people in the US have a growing concern for the fluoridation of water.

 

 

Whether or not water should be fluoridated is a controversial topic. Many people and organizations claim that the fluoridation of water has reduced the number of cavities seen in a person and has increased overall oral health of the US population. Those on the other side of the issue see fluoride as toxic and site studies linking the ingestion of fluoride to toxicity and many other health problems. These same people are also frustrated with the fluoridation of water because it is a chemical which is not easily removed from water. There is no standard carbon water filter which removes the chemical. Only reverse osmosis and distillation systems can remove fluoride.

 

North Carolina Commission on Fracking

Recently, North Carolina approved the bill to allow fracking (or hydraulic fracturing). In 2013, members of North Carolina's Mining and Energy Commission (NCMEC) are developing regulations for drilling. Drilling could begin as early as 2014.

 

Scientist looking at flask
NCMEC's chairman, Jim Womack, believes North Carolina will require "stringent disclosure laws." Many critics of fracking have shown that natural gas drilling causes earthquakes and water contamination. If North Carolina can obtain full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, including the "proprietary" chemicals, it would be a first nation wide.

 

In some situations, environmental regulators may know what chemicals are used in fracking, but there is a question as to allow emergency first responders and medical personnel know the types of chemicals used. Fracking additives can be extremely dangerous and contaminate the ground water. One of the many additives used in fracking is a compound called biocide tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride. In addition to potentially harmful additives, the shale itself can release flammable and toxic chemicals like methane and benzene. These chemicals, since they are being release from the shale, can move more quickly into aquifers and into our groundwater. Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Wate for North Carolina, says, "This is our public groundwater. The public has a right to know."

 

At this time, there are no water filters that remove the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. As science learns more about the proprietary chemicals used in fracking, more filters and filter systems will be able to be tested for and remove unwanted pollutants.  

Is Your Tap Water Making You Sick?

We know that tap water in America is some of the best drinking water in the world. Many people in the world don't have easy access to any water, let alone have drinkable, healthy water coming from three or more faucets in their home at any time. While we are extremely fortunate, recent research indicates our wonderful water may be making us sick.

 

Bottledwater-trash-small

In the last twenty-five years, the number of children and adults with food allergies has sky rocketed. This is a growing concern for the general population, but only recently did researchers look into the link between the high use of environmental pesticides and water purifying chemicals. Chemicals called dichlorophenols have been used to treat groundwater to make it "safe" to drink. According to a study reported by TIME Magazine, over 10,000 participants who had the highest levels of dichlorophenols in their bodies were "80% more likely to have food sensitivities."

 

Because each person is different, the allergic reaction may manifest itself in different ways, however the authors of the study believe dichlorophenols cause a hyper-sensitive immune system reaction which causes common food to be recognized as foreign. These hypersensitivities are thought to affect different systems of the body which may control and regulate daily processes.

 

For the first time in human history, more people are living in cities and urban areas instead of the rural country side. Many people believe the difference in environment and exposure to different things can create more sensitivities and allergies in a person. Another thought is that since dichlorophenols are used to purify water, perhaps they prevent us from being exposed to more bacteria and viruses, causing our immune system to react differently. 

 

Although there is no proven filter to remove contaminants like medications and pharmaceuticals from our water, many water filters will remove heavy metals and contaminants like dichlorophenols. If you're concerned, have your water tested and we will be happy to help find you a filter to meet your needs!