mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Do you know where your tap water has been?

November 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

While most of the world frets about the $100/barrel cost of petroleum, another resource shortage has been looming at the outskirts of our attention.

Water.

Our SUVs will grind to a halt without the former.

Life will grind to a halt without the latter.

In many parts of the world the growing shortage [note to self: as a writer, can you live with the contradiction in terms?] of water for agriculture and drinking purposes is already a critical issue. Governments can print money, but the planet’s supply of water is apparently finite, especially the fresh variety.

Which leads us, as in many instances, to California. You’ll remember California, the home of huge redwood forests, spectacular ocean vistas, and once arid deserts now populated by tens of millions of people.

Water is imported into this residential desert from as far away as Colorado, and as the population, and agricultural activity that supports it grows, the potable supply in many cities is insufficient.

Which leads us to today’s story, courtesy as so many are, of the NYTimes.

November 27, 2007

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.

But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

It’s a clever system, actually, not directly sending the output of the reclamation project to the taps.

groundwater

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking – New York Times

Water. We’ve covered it here before. It’s a universal theme.

Anyone remember the amazing Polanski/Nicholson/Huston/Dunaway film “Chinatown“? Its plot driver was the 1930s surreptitious provision of irrigation water for the orange groves of the San Fernando valley, now the northern bedroom suburbs of Los Angeles.

In the past, MUDGE was always grateful for living quite near one of the Great Lakes, a seemingly reliable and endless resource.

That was then. Now, between wrestling with states and cities in the dry West that would love to get hold of some of that lovely stuff, and fending off the likes of Nestlé, largest marketer of bottled water in the world, whose facility in Michigan has begun to deplete bottomless Lake Michigan, our Great Lakes-adjacent location is not looking so comfortable.

So, technology might provide an answer, as it might for so many of civilization’s issues.

One solution that out of desperation has been tried in many parts of the world is desalinization, the conversion of salt water (¾ of the planet’s surface, or so we’re told) to fresh. After all, California (the state in question) has many hundreds of miles of oceanfront. However, desalinization turns out to be frightfully expensive, both in dollar terms, as well as, I was interested to learn, in environmental terms as well.

Impacts of desalination include brine build-up, increased greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of prized coastal areas and reduced emphasis on conservation of rivers and wetlands. Many of the areas of most intensive desalination activity also have a history of damaging natural water resources, particularly groundwater.

Desalination: Option Or Distraction For A Thirsty World?

Okay, so I understand it’s a closed system, this Spaceship Earth we all inhabit. Over the course of eons, water cycles through salt and fresh, and the Groundwater Replenishment System called out above is an attempt to provide some of that cyclic advantage, cosmetically at least.

We’ve long taken fresh potable water for granted in the Western world. Our desert west and its growing crisis is only a harbinger.

Like so many of our bedrock expectations, a planet heading for 9billion humans will seismically shift those watery assumptions.

Cheers!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm101: Technology / Water — It’s a theme!

August 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Two fascinating stories came our way today, courtesy at least in one case and possibly both, of reddit.com blogroll2.

[Don’t know what’s going on with Digg lately, but reddit just has better stuff, and Digg seems to be proving that its flavor of Web 2.0 doesn’t have a clue when it comes to news one can use, and MUDGE hereby expels it from the blogroll.]

So, they both involve water, in a micro and a macro way, with technological solutions to pressing and urgent global challenges.

Story the first:

Watercone – An Ingenious Way To Turn Salt Water Into Fresh Water

Written by The Naib

watercone

The Watercone is an ingenious device that can take salty water and turn it into fresh water using only the power of the sun. The nice thing about this device is it is bone simple, uses the sun instead of fossil fuel, and is cheap to make and easy to use.

water cone

So simple as to beg the question — can it possibly work? So simple as to beg the question — this costs $27.00???

But, take a look at the full story.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Watercone – Ingenious Way To Turn Salt Water Into Fresh Water

What’s utterly lovable about this concept is that it’s high tech in the service of low tech.

2. Absolutely, low concept and low tech.
As opposed to other types of solar stills which feature electronics, photo-voltaic cells, tubes, filters, many parts, etc. the Watercone concept is understood within seconds with absolutely no need for academic background. Additionally it (cone & pan) is made from Bayer Makrolon, a high-tech ultra-rugged and highly recyclable polycarbonate, virtually insensitive to UV exposure or breakage, an all too common result of rough transport.

They tell us that, for the 21st century, water is the new petroleum — highly valued (can’t live without it, until Nestle comes up with bottled synthetic water, manufactured from spent uranium or something!); limited supply.

So, we can provide a solar powered laptop to the children of the third world, and if they’re coast dwellers, solar created potable water to help them reach a thriving adulthood. Extraordinary.

On to story the second, also a technology story involving water.

East River Turbines Face Upstream Battle

2007_08_verdantturbine.JPG

The alternative energy company that has plans to install hundreds of turbines in the East River to harness tidal energy and generate zero-emission electrical power is running into trouble due to the massive amount of energy they are dealing with. The small number of turbines already placed in the East River by Verdant Power have been temporarily removed as the strong currents continue to overwhelm the physical construction of the underwater “windmills.” The six turbines that were placed in the water last December and were capable of supplying 1,000 daily kilowatt hours of power and serving the Gristedes supermarket on Roosevelt Island could not withstand currents.

turbinefield.jpgThe East River is not actually a river; it’s a tidal strait, and one can easily observe the current moving in opposite directions with the tides. Verdant Power’s plan is to install a field of turbines anchored to the bottom of the East River and use the currents to generate pollution-free electricity for the city. The currents have proven so strong, however, that the turbine propellers have been sheared off a third of the way down, and stronger replacements were hampered by insufficiently strong bolt connections to the turbine hubs.

So, when I first saw this post, I have to admit, I was skeptical — was MUDGE being punked? Does elderly MUDGE even know what punked means?

Yup, of course it’s real, this blog links to a story in yesterday’s NYTimes, which even mentions MUDGE‘s current presidential fixation, Michael Bloomberg. So, okay, I’ve just injected a bit of unreality, but bear with the story, please!

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!] Gothamist: East River Turbines Face Upstream Battle

So, here’s an example of cutting edge high tech overreaching. Or, shearing edge. Hard to imagine that the tidal currents are so strong as to incapacitate these water mills. Harder to imagine that they’ve spent a lot of time (and of course some public money) and couldn’t predict the power of water — exhibit A.

And there you have it, an example of MUDGE‘s weird penchant for tying together disparate threads into a unified theme. So, which do you think makes the liquid grade today? Drinking water from a $27 piece of plastic and the sun? Or, hydro power for NYC from a tidefarm that had better be made from materials stronger than granite?

An interesting race that we’ll watch with interest.

In our rush to improve the first and third worlds with all of this wonderful technology, let’s not forget to FIX ALL OF THOSE GODDAMN BRIDGES ALREADY!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE