Archive for July, 2012

Reusable Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

The United States’ drinking water standards are high. Under normal circumstances, the water is clean, safe, tastes ok and is used for so many different things. The same water that we drink is used to flush the toilet, water the plants and wash the car. Does a toilet require potable water for flushing? No, absolutely not. Could the runoff water from the dishes and shower be reused for other purposes? Yes, definitely.

Think of it this way: three levels of water quality exist – white, grey and black. White water is that which we drink, potable water. It’s been filtered and disinfected specifically for us to safely consume. Grey water is the wastewater that flows from a home’s shower, bathroom sink, washing machine and/or bathtub. This water is then purposed for reuse, typically in the form of landscape irrigation. Black water is flushed toilet water, containing materials unsafe for reuse, unless properly treated. Water from the garbage disposal, dishwasher and kitchen sink is usually referred to as black water as well, because of high levels of organic waste.

On average, 280 gallons of water goes down the drain per household, per day and more than half of that could be reclaimed as grey water. Reasons to reuse water include sustainability, making your home more green, reducing your water bill and reducing your water footprint. Water reclamation can simply be done by collecting shower water with a bucket and reusing where applicable. Other specific tools are available to do the trick, for example hooking up a bathroom sink to a machine that funnels the grey water to the toilet.

Rainwater harvesting is another way to conserve water. This method involves collecting and storing rainwater, and reusing it for irrigation or for consumption.

In our next blog post, we will be discussing specific examples of water conservation and grey water application, and what it can do for the home and the environment. In the meantime, do you reclaim water or harvest rainwater? If so, please tell us about it. Would you consider it if you don’t do one or both of these, and for what uses?

Clean it Up

Filed Under Category Water Contaminant by Annie Barbour

In restaurants, water is quickly on the rise as the preferred drink – perhaps because of the price, for health reasons, or for the palate’s sake – as water has a way of simply pairing with a meal. Clean water hydrates, keeps us active, clears up our skin and does so many more things for our bodies – it’s amazing! But what about when the water isn’t clean? What happens when people drink contaminated water, and what can be done about it?

Contamination in water comes from a whole slew of man-made and naturally occurring things: industrial waste, hazardous sediments, household chemicals, bacteria, viruses and parasites to name a few. We’ve previously discussed some ground and surface water contaminants, but what do parasites have to do with water?

The most notable parasitic water outbreak in the United States occurred in Milwaukee in 1993. Cryptosporidium, a parasite, had unknowingly contaminated Milwaukee Water Works’ (MWW) source water: Lake Michigan. The source water flowed to MWW as it always did, and after being treated, was provided to the homes of Milwaukee residents.

Although the turbidity readings had been unusually high, which can signal microbial contamination, the MWW employees did not catch the problem until after the fact, as all of the water quality standards were met. The municipality became alerted of the problem when people throughout the city began calling about diarrhea, and increased absences from school and work were reported. A boil alert was put into effect, the water plant was shut down, and in a week’s time, the incidence of sickness tapered off. When all was said and done, this specific parasite, in a single occurrence, caused 400,000 people in Milwaukee to become sick, and resulted in 100 deaths of people with weak immune systems.

So how did this happen? For starters, cryptosporidium contaminated the water source through infected stools of animals or people. Secondly, Cryptosporidium cysts have tough walls that can withstand many environmental stresses and are resistant to chlorine which many municipalities use to disinfect water.

Of course since the 1993 outbreak, more measures to keep water safe are being taken. The EPA’s Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule regulates that 99% of Cryptosporidium be removed if a municipality serves 10,000 people or more.  Since then, no more large-scale outbreaks have occurred. However, if you are served by a smaller scale source for your water or looking for an added factor of safety, consider a home filtration system like the Zuvo Water Filtration System. The Zuvo system is tested to NSF/ANSI standards for the reduction of protozoan cysts including Cryptosporidium.

We’d like to hear from you, what potential drinking water contaminants are of most concern to you?

Give Thanks for Water

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

Water is absolutely essential for life. Think plants, think animals, think humanity, think whatever you want – it’s vital, isn’t it?  Its uses abound – hydration of course, but also hygiene, cooking, recreation and the manufacturing of so many goods.  So it’s only fitting that this week, we give thanks for this naturally reproducing thing called H2O.

To function properly, we must drink water.  Our bodies and the vast majority of our vital organs are composed of water.  Without consuming about half of our body weight in ounces on a daily basis, we may experience dehydration symptoms including lethargy, lightheadedness, headaches, dry skin, achy joints and low blood pressure.  Consider a dry, withering plant. What is the first thing it needs for life? Water of course!  Regardless of which wonder-grow solution you add to the plant, it will not thrive without water. The same is true for the human body.  We need pure water to function as we should, and thankfully – most people have access to it.

About seven out of eight people have access to clean drinking water, which leaves 884 million people lacking that basic right.  Without clean water, individuals of all ages are more susceptible to disease, infections, diarrhea and even death.  Children are denied education in impoverished countries due to the lack of sanitation facilities and because of their, or the women’s duty to fetch water daily.

Along with many other organizations, Pump Aid demonstrates how important clean water is by the work they do.  They build self-sustainable wells for poor, rural African communities who can then draw the water, as opposed to walking miles to get their daily supply.  Pump Aid also helps communities build a sanitary toilet, and teaches them how to irrigate nutrition gardens.  It is by these actions, that we realize how vital water really is.

We are blessed with the easy access to clean water, which is life giving in so many ways. Take advantage of it!