Water For All by 2030

Kariya Mohamed Abbakar, right, a 50 year old woman from Darfur in western Sudan, arrives at her shelter in the Abu Shouk camp for internally displaced persons with jerrycans full of water from the nearest water point. Because of the hard labor and cost of the water, she and her family must limit their consumption of water to 80 litres a week, while a typical person in a developed nation would use about 400 litres of water a day. March 19, 2013 (Photo by Water Alternatives) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, March 5, 2019 (Maximpact.com News) – As spring approaches across the Northern Hemisphere, people are planning for planting and for the impact of hotter weather on their water supplies. This is the time for World Water Day, March 22, designated by the United Nations as a day to focus on freshwater – the most essential element of life.

“Leaving no one behind” is the theme for World Water Day 2019. A year of considering the water needs of marginalized groups, this theme is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: everyone must benefit.

But marginalized groups: women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others, are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination as they try to access and manage the safe water they need. World Water Day 2019 is about addressing the reasons why so many people are being left behind.

In addition to the many events set for March 22 and listed on the official World Water Day website World Water Day 2019 is spilling over from just one day to include all kinds of water-related events in March and even earlier.

Friends of Siza, for instance, is celebrating World Water Day by building a well in South Africa all during the month of March. This nonprofit is run by teachers in the U.S. state of Wisconsin who are partners with SizaBantwana, an organization in Hazyview, South Africa that supports over 700 vulnerable children.

From March 14 to 24 in Washington, DC is the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF), the largest of its kind in the world. This year’s festival will present over 100 films at 25 different locations around the city, including museums, universities, embassies, libraries and theaters. Many of the films deal with water issues.

On March 15, the American Chemistry Council’s Chlorine Chemistry Division and International Action  welcome students and teachers of the Capitol Hill Montessori School of Washington, DC to celebrate World Water Day 2019 with include an interactive presentation of the ongoing efforts of International Action to provide safe, chlorinated drinking water to Haiti.

On March 19, a pivotal event takes place at the Palais des Nations, home of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, where the UN will release its World Water Development Report 2019.

Water.org has provided more than 16 million people throughout India, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines with access to safe water and sanitation. Its WaterEquity fund has now grown to $60 million since it was created in 2017.

And on February 26, WaterEquity, the first impact investment manager dedicated to ending the global water crisis, was selected by Impact Assets as one of 50 outstanding impact investment managers demonstrating positive social, environmental, and financial impact.

WaterEquity was co-founded by social entrepreneur Gary White and actor Matt Damon to provide investors a unique opportunity to drive positive social and financial impact in the water sector.

“We’re honored to be one of the 50 impact investment fund managers recognized by Impact Assets,” said WaterEquity’s Managing Director Tom Light. “By investing in a portfolio of enterprises in emerging markets, WaterEquity’s funds help these enterprises scale, meet increasing market demand, and deliver access to safe water and sanitation.”

With a market opportunity estimated at US$1 trillion, Light says WaterEquity is building momentum with a planned launch of a larger, global water fund later this year.

The Water Scarcity Crisis

Climate change plus population growth are setting the stage for water shortages in many parts of the United States long before the end of this century, finds a new study in the American Geophysical Union’s journal “Earth’s Future.”

The core of the new analysis is a comparison of future water supply versus estimated water demand in various water-using sectors, such as industry and agriculture.

The study finds continued reductions in per-person water use rates are likely in most water-use sectors, but will not be enough to avoid impending water shortages because of the combined effects of population growth and climate change.

Even efforts to use water more efficiently in municipal and industrial sectors won’t be enough to stave off shortages, say the authors. They suggest that reductions in agricultural water use will be most effective in limiting future water scarcity.

Climate change and population growth will present serious challenges in some regions of the United States, the analysis shows: the central and southern Great Plains, the Southwest and central Rocky Mountain States, California, and some areas in the South and Midwest.

The study, “Adaptation to Future Water Shortages in the United States Caused by Population Growth and Climate Change” is part of a 10-year U.S. Forest Service assessment of renewable resources including timber, rangeland forage, wildlife and water.

“The new study not only provides a best guess of future water supply and demand but also looks at what can we do to lessen projected shortages,” said lead author Thomas Brown, of the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station in Colorado.

The study’s authors explored adaptive strategies for reversing projected water shortages, like increasing reservoir storage capacity, pumping more water out of groundwater aquifers, and diverting more water from streams and rivers.

Increasing the size of reservoirs does not look promising for fending off water shortages, especially in parts of the U.S. expected to get drier as climate change progresses.

Brown said, “Where water is the limiting factor, a reservoir enlargement is unlikely to store any water.”

Further reductions in groundwater reserves and greater diversions of in-stream flows could help ease future shortages in many areas, but they come with serious social and environmental costs.

To avoid those costs, the study’s authors say, improvements in irrigation efficiency must become a high priority, and further transfers of water from agriculture to other sectors will be essential.

Solutions: Using Less Water and Removing Pollutants

Scientists across the world have been racking their brains to solve the global problem of clean water scarcity. They find that solutions lie along two lines of activity: people can find ways to use less water and find ways to cleanse the pollutants from contaminated water.

Progress is taking place on both fronts.

Chinese scientists announced in February that they have found a new way to purify pathogen-contaminated water with high efficiency and without using metal by using graphitic carbon nitride sheets.

With a metal-free photocatalyst jointly developed by researchers from Yangzhou University and the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, this method can provide standard drinking water in 30 minutes with disinfection efficiency over 99.9999% under visible light irradiation.

Unlike metal-based photocatalytic disinfectants, it achieved this standard without leaving behind secondary pollution or heavy-metal-ion residues, offering a promising alternative to less eco-friendly technologies.

This discovery was published in the journal “Chem” on February 7 .

“The future application of photocatalytic disinfection technology can significantly relieve clean-water scarcity and global energy shortage,” says Dan Wang, a professor at the Institute of Process Engineering and a senior author on the paper.

He acknowledges that this bacteria-killing system is not intended to purify water by itself alone. “Purification needs other devices for removing heavy-metal ions, adjusting pH, and removing residue,” he says. “We need to combine our system with others to meet water-purification requirements.”

In a novel water-purification discovery, engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri have used bacteria to build filtering membranes that remove bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that reduce biofouling.

Srikanth Singamaneni, professor of mechanical engineering & materials science, and Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, and their teams blended their expertise to develop an ultrafiltration membrane using graphene oxide and bacterial nanocellulose that they found to be highly efficient, long-lasting and environmentally friendly.

“If you want to purify water with microorganisms in it, the reduced graphene oxide in the membrane can absorb the sunlight, heat the membrane and kill the bacteria,” Singamaneni said.

When the bacteria were killed, the researchers had a pristine membrane with a high quality of nanocellulose fibers that was able to filter water twice as fast as commercially available ultrafiltration membranes under high operating pressure.

The authors say that if their technique were scaled up to a large size, it could benefit many developing countries where clean water is scarce.

Their work was published as the cover story in the January 2 issue of the journal “Environmental Science & Technology.”

On the water consumption side, University of Cincinnati researchers say they have found a solution to one of the biggest environmental problems facing the energy industry, the water used by power plants.

Power plants in the United States need as much water each year as all of the nation’s farms combined – an estimated 133 billion gallons a day, according to federal data. This poses an enormous strain on water resources and has a negative environmental impact.

University of Cincinnati professors Raj Manglik, left, and Milind Jog have developed an improved cooling system for power plants. 2019 (Photo by Joseph Fuqua II / UC Creative Services) Posted for media use.

Now Raj Manglik and Milind Jog, professors of mechanical engineering in University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, say they have developed a new air-cooling system for power plants that uses no water but is nearly as effective as water-cooled systems.

“At some point this will be a water crisis – and it will be rather soon,” Manglik said. “That was the primary motivation. Can we make air cooling significantly more viable so that companies would adopt it regardless?”

Most power plants in the United States are built beside bodies of water to meet the demands of their cooling systems. Some water is lost through evaporation in cooling towers. Warmer water is pumped back into lakes, rivers or bays, which can raise the ambient temperature, and this thermal pollution kills fish and other aquatic organisms and creates toxic algae blooms.

To design a better air-cooled condenser for power plants, UC’s researchers developed enhanced metal fins with a unique geometric design that favorably alters the air flow over them. This provides far better heat convection for cooling steam in the air-cooled condenser.

“The second part we’re developing is an air pre-cooler coupled with thermal energy storage,” Jog said. “So at night when the temperatures are low, the system stores the cold. And that is used during the peak times to cool the air before it goes to the condenser.”

Just the Facts, Please

In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

  • But the UN projects that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
  • More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation, UNICEF data shows.
  • Globally, 80 percent of the people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas, and women and girls are responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households with water off-premises.
  • For the 68.5 million people who have been forced to flee their homes, accessing safe water services is highly problematic reported the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in the Global Trends Report: “Forced Displacement in 2017,”
  • Around four billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.

Featured Image: A girl washes her face at a UNICEF-supported hand pump in Mullah Wazir Chukhro village, Jacobabad district, Sindh province, Pakistan. October 30, 2012. (Photo by Asad Zaidi courtesy UNICEF Pakistan) Posted for media use.

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