Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Foul Truth About Water

Dr Daniel Kammen
Yesterday at the gym I watched an interesting Discovery Channel show called Ecopolis, where Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr Daniel Kammen talks about how we need to reduce our carbon footprint and there was a competition to see which idea was the most effective.

I only started watching the show after the first two ideas were shown, one about having urban gardens, and the other having refrigerators that were smart enough so that they reduced the amount of energy they used.

The third idea was filmed in southern California where people were invited to try a sample of water. Many liked the taste and thought it was spring water or from the tap.

It turned out it was from human waste.

But according to environmental scientists, the reality is, we will have to drink this kind of water in the future because of how we currently waste water. And this recycled water is 100 percent safe.

The waste is collected from sewers and then the solids are removed and then the water goes through a process called reverse osmosis where it is further filtered by very thin strands that are like straws that suck up very fine bacteria particles. The weave of the filters are small enough for water particles to go through, but not bacteria.

Then finally UV rays are shone on the water to zap out any remaining bacteria.

Water from reverse osmosis
The man who runs the water treatment plant admits the water has no particular taste which is why it's pumped back into the mountain spring to absorb that spring water taste.

While the process sounds disgusting it is probably the future of how we will consume water.

At the gym or in public washrooms I see so many people wasting water, from keeping the showers on while they are shampooing their hair to keeping the tap on while washing their hands or face. There is no need to keep the tap running while lathering your hands. And in a way the automatic sensor taps in shopping mall washrooms have been a good thing.

There is no education about the seriousness of the future of water shortages. In Hong Kong we are mostly surrounded by water and so people assume we will always have enough water to drink, but it's not true. While we may have water in Victoria Harbour, would we really drink it?

The government needs to implement these kinds of water treatment plants in Hong Kong. Beijing installed one before the Olympics in a bid to show its environmentally conscious ways. If it's still in use is another story, but at the time it seemed to be working well.

Oh and the other idea? It was turning cow poop into energy because of the methane gas in cow dung. Another dirty mess to deal with, but it's a reality. The more beef we eat, the more cows we need, thus higher amounts of methane gas in the environment.

So basically we need to have a more plant-based diet... and it's a good thing -- if we want the human race to survive.

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