Water Crisis: Seeking Answers to our Sewage Problem

Image Credit: Gatesnotes.com

Image Credit: Gatesnotes.com

How appealing does drinking poop water sound? Your answer is not very likely, and if offered a glass you would say no. But for 750 million people in the world today, that is a question answered every day as communities collect their water from rivers or streams where sewage has contaminated the water. The cause of this problem is 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. Additionally, 2 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks which are improperly emptied into areas where water contamination can occur. The World Economic Forum ranks the water crisis as being the number 1 risk currently facing society. Its apparent in all our lives that clean water is important which is why Bill Gates, one of the world’s most widely recognized innovators and philanthropists, wants us to say yes to the poop water question.

In emergency preparedness literature, they explain that if your home is connected to a municipal water source you could drink from the water tank (not from the bowl) on your toilet if absolutely necessary. After all, the water entering your toilet is the same water you get from your faucet. Think about that for a moment. Our toilet water is cleaner than the waterways that 750 million people access to drink. If those people had the same quality water going into our bathrooms, we could prevent an estimated 700,000 child deaths every year.

When thinking about where we get our drinking water it is important to know that 2.5% of total water on Earth is freshwater, with less than 1% of that being readily accessible to humans.  With news reports focused on lingering droughts and ever increasing demand for resources, safe water becomes all the more important. For many countries who can’t afford the infrastructure to control the flow of waste and fresh water, a need for new solutions are required using practical technologies that are both cost effective and efficient.

Fueling the Future of Sanitation

Sewage contains 20% biomass and about 80% water. Now imagine a machine that burns biomass as fuel. In this machine raw sewage is dried. The resulting sludge is boiled to separate out the water. As the process continues, an incinerator burns the remaining solids to produce high-temperatures and high-pressure steam which drives an engine to generates electricity which in turn runs the machine. The resulting water vapor is then filtered to remove additional substances. The by-product of this entire process is purified drinking water, excess power for use in local communities, and ash that can be used as fertilizer. That is exactly how Janicki Bioenergy’s Omni Processor works, and it is being pioneered by Microsoft creator Bill Gates. You might have seen Bill’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon where he challenged the Tonight Show host to pick and drink one of two glasses of water then guess whether it came from a bottle or was poop water, a term coined to bring attention to the concept of converting sewage to safe drinking water in about 5 minutes. After Bill and Jimmy each downed a glass it was revealed both were filled with water sourced from the omni processor located in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, where the prototype is currently located.

For Bill Gates, the pursuit to reinvent how we deal with waste began in 2011 when the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation challenged eight universities to the Toilet Challenge. Each university was given $400,000 to develop a toilet that: Removes harmful waste and recovers resources such as energy, water and nutrients; operates ‘off the grid’; costs less than 5 cents per day; promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services; and is a next-generation product that both the wealthy and developing nations want to use. Each university approached the challenge in unique ways. For example, The California Institute of Technology (who won the top prize) used solar panels to power an electro-chemical reaction that breaks down waste and stores excess energy for night-time operation.

While new toilet technology can reduce the harmful effects of waste, it didn’t solve the infrastructure problem many countries face. Bill Gates and his team at Janicki Bioenergy are betting on the success of the omni processor as it aims to meet the needs in both rural and urban environments. The first prototype, the S100, is a proof of concept that costs about $1.5 million, significantly less than sewer lines and processing plants. The machine is capable of handling sewage for a community of 100,000 people and produces 2,800 gallons of drinking water and between 100 and 250 Kw net electricity per day. Each machine requires only one or two operators at any given time and could pay for itself by selling excess electricity and fertilizer. A second prototype, the S200, will processes around 7 times more sewage while only being 20% bigger in size.

The Clean Water Conclusion

It is said that for every $1 invested into better sanitation, $5 in social and economic benefits are created through the reduction of healthcare costs and increased productivity. This is especially true for women and children who spend an estimated 140 million hours a day searching for and collecting water. Economic benefits are great but saving lives is better. Cutting down on disease and making clean water less scarce presents new opportunities to parts of the world struggling to meet their most basic needs.

The goal is to roll out thousands of omni processors in the near future combined with newer toilet technology to drive community entrepreneurship and innovate the way we currently deal with sewage. Not only in developing countries but within all communities regardless of region or socio-economic status as we look to a sustainable future.

Would I drink poo water? Yes.

How Water Can Fight Off the Cold and Flu – Cure & Remedies

Water-fights-off-germsThe cold and flu season is no fun. The sniffling, sneezing and headaches add up to a big discomfort for many. While there is no cure for the common cold or flu, there is an organic way you can fight it: by drinking adequate amounts of water. Water helps to wash germs and viruses out of your immune system and keeps the body hydrated. Many in the medical field suggest drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day to boost your immune system and your overall health.

In addition to keeping your system adequately hydrated, here are 4 benefits on why water is essential for your body.

1. Water oxygenates your blood and flushes out harmful toxins from your immune system.

2. Prevention of common chronic ailments is another benefit of using water to fight off cold, flu and other illnesses.

3. Drinking adequate amounts of water will help you digest your food better.

4. Drinking water will help organs like your eyes and mouth to remain moist and repel contaminants that could cause infections.

Before you run for that glass of water however, stop to think about whether your water is filtered or not. The full benefit of water is ineffective if it contains waterborne contaminants such as bacteria, sediment, Giardia or Cryptosporidium. This is why drinking filtered water, free from contaminants, is best for your immune system.

Filtered water can come from many different sources such as point of use (filtered water pitchers and refrigerator water filters) and point of entry (such as whole home water filters). Deciding which option is best for you depends largely on preference. However, always stop and consider what your water quality is like by testing your water before deciding on any option.

Remember that water is a natural way to help your immune system fight germs associated with colds and the flu. Drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water per day will keep your body hydrated and ready to fight off harmful viruses. 

Related article:

Keep Kids & Family Healthy this Winter Season- Cold and Flu

World Water Day 2014- Water & Energy

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On March 22, 2014 we will celebrate World Water Day, as a means of focusing awareness on the importance of, and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The first World Water Day was designated by the United Nations on March 22, 1993 and has been recognized each year since.

Each year focuses on a specific issue or theme.  This year the theme is Water & Energy.  The main objectives are as follows:

  • Raise awareness on the close link between water and energy production.
  • Reach decision makers by presenting case studies on the importance of water-energy issues that greatly impact social and economic development.
  • Identify and demonstrate the water-energy nexus to key stakeholders who may influence UN-Water and UN-Energy policy formulation.

One main priority has always been to address the inequities of producing clean, fresh drinking water, proper sanitation methods and adequate energy services to millions of people living in rural, impoverished areas all around the world.

This World Water Day, by highlighting the importance of the water-energy connection, the aim is to put politics aside and come together for the sake of the greater good.  Let us do our part to help those who are underprivileged and that do not have the resources to attain clean drinking water or the energy to produce it.  This is a global responsibility that each of us must carry.  This also includes practicing water conservation techniques on a regular basis, becoming more educated on water-related issues and becoming connected with a water charity that aims at ending this growing concern.

For more information on World Water Day and to find out what you can do to assist efforts, please visit UN World Water Day 2014.