Water, water everywhere, but treat it yourself if you want to drink it!

31 March 2012

I have believed for some time that we are moving steadily towards a situation in South Africa wherein, although you may have water piped to your house, you will need to treat it yourself in order to be able to drink it.  I have heard this opinion confirmed in comments made by senior officials from water authorities.  Basically, up there in the roof next to your geyser,  you will need a reverse-osmosis unit or similar to ensure the potable safety of your water.  This, assuming that the government does nothing to stem the rate at which our surface waters are being degraded.

Sales of water purifiers have “flooded the markets in China”, reports China Daily.

Water purification is a mammoth business in the country as the population of more than 1.3 billion is more than ever concerned about the quality of what they drink.

China sold 30 million residential water purification systems last year, of which 20 million were purchased by Chinese families. It created a sales revenue of 30 billion yuan ($4.76 billion), according to data from the China Water Purification Association.

“The country’s water purification business is promising because people are more conscious of the quality of drinking water. Along with their increasing incomes, an increasing number of Chinese families now intend to buy high-quality water purifiers,” said Gu Jiuchuan, secretary-general of the association.

What about people who cannot afford these luxuries??

Water quality issues are becoming very big on the global agenda.  Water-rich countries, such as Switzerland, have known this for decades and took, long-ago, meaningful steps to ensure that pollution of their resources would not impact negatively on their country.  Many countries, especially those in arid regions, have simply ignored the threat and the pollution has already happened, and continues to.  Several countries are moving demonstrably to address the problem before it gets worse.

In the little-known City of Boise (Idaho), news reports have proudly announced that

The amount of phosphorus pollution entering the Boise River during summer months from the City of Boise’s two wastewater treatment plants will be reduced by 98 percent under two updated discharge permits issued today. The EPA permits also contain new requirements to limit mercury and ammonia discharges and call for cooler water entering the River from the treatment plants. [Source: Water World].


Environmental Groups are suing the EPA because of the damage that polluted runoff has caused to the Gulk of Mexico.  The figures are both shocking and insightful [Source: Inhabitat.com].

 [As] 41% of the U.S.’s wastewater [runs] into the Mississippi, huge quantities of fertilizers and other chemicals from farms and cities across the nation are carried into the Gulf of Mexico. Each summer, as the water heats up, the growth of these microscopic organisms surges, perpetuating the Gulf’s dead zone.

A dead zone is an area with such low levels of oxygen that the waters are unable to support marine life – and a number of environmental groups, including the Gulf Restoration Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to implement more stringent water quality standard and stronger regulations for wastewater treatment.

While the Gulf’s “dead zone” represents a sizable effect of the Mississippi’s pollution, GRN highlights that the pollution also poses significant water quality concerns upriver: “seasonally the Raccoon and the Des Moines Rivers in Iowa carry excessive levels of nitrates, requiring special treatment before the water is safe enough for Des Moines-area residents to drink.”

In Los Angeles, very strict pollution reduction measures have been set for 175 waterbodies.  In the US, these measures take the form of something called Total Maximum Daily Loads (search Droplets for more information on TMDLs).

As a result of the consent decree, 47 TMDLs have been established for 175 water bodies that address numerous pollutant impairments including elevated bacteria, metals, pesticides, PCBs and trash.  Additional TMDLs will be approved or established within the next year.

No-one wants to pay more for services, but it seems most are more willing to pay more for petrol than they are for the water they drink!  Droplets has reported on many instances where attempts to improve water quality are being fought on the basis of costs! Why? in many cases because Joe Public simply does not understand the situation.

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