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By José Barcia *
To begin we will give a chilling summary:
- There are 1.1 billion people without access to safe drinking water.
- 2.6 billion (40% of the world's population) do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.
- A person needs a minimum of 20 liters of water per day to drink and wash. Those 1,100 million have only 5 liters a day and, in addition, contaminated.
- A European uses 200 to 300 liters per day, and an American 575 liters.
For these reasons, 1,800,000 children die each year, mostly from childhood diarrhea.
Bottled water, a current problem that is not talked about
Consumers around the world collectively spend more than $ 100 billion on bottled water each year in the often mistaken belief that it is much better. World consumption of bottled water grew to 155 billion liters in 2004, 57 billion more than in 1999.
Even in areas where well water is safe to drink, the increasing demand for bottled water is producing unnecessary waste and consuming large amounts of energy, says a report by researcher Emily Arnold of the Earth Policy Institute. (www.earth-policy.org), although in many parts of the world, including Europe and the US, there are regulations to control its quality, bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more than tap water. A gallon of bottled water in the US can cost up to more than $ 10 (1 US gallon = 3.785 liters, or 2.64 dollars per liter), more than twice as much as gasoline.
There is no question that clean and cheap drinking water is essential to the health of our global community - Arnold said - but bottled water is not the answer in the developed world, nor is it the solution to the problems of 1.1 billion people who lack of a safe water supply. By expanding and improving the water treatment and sanitation of existing systems it is more feasible to provide safe and sustainable sources of water in the long term.
The member countries of the United Nations agreed to halve the proportion of people who lack reliable and long-lasting access to safe drinking water by 2015. To reach this goal, the 15 billion dollars allocated each year to supply would have to be doubled. and water sanitation. While this amount may seem huge, it pales in comparison to the estimated $ 100 billion in annual bottled water spending. It pales much more when compared to the astronomical world spending on armaments. Drinking water comes to us through an infrastructure that consumes energy economically, while bottled water is transported often long distances across the territory by ship, train, trucks. This involves burning massive amounts of fossil fuels with much less logical justification than transporting food.
Water bottling uses more fossil fuels. Most water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic derived from crude oil.
Once emptied, the bottle must be discarded. According to the Institute for Container Recycling, 86% of used plastic water bottles in the US become trash or landfill. The incineration of used bottles generates toxic by-products such as chlorine gas. Buried bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Possible solutions to end up with bottled water
Water has become a desirable spoil of the "market" and increasingly due to the abuse of water resources and the irresponsible use of water that leads to increasing contamination of available sources. We have known for decades that our planet is subject to an overexploitation of resources that are already insufficient to serve the human population. How do you fight against the commercial propaganda that permanently bombards the population arguing that their health is guaranteed by drinking bottled water? Is awareness of the people possible?
- Possible solutions:
1 - Reach all homes with potable water from the network in all urban and suburban areas.
Who writes this has a weekend in an area near Rosario (Argentina) that has a natural gas network and does not have drinking water from the network. What is the order of priorities?
The quality of the mains water is monitored so that they comply with minimum standards of potability from the bacteriological and chemical points of view. What happens is that many times, even being drinkable, they are bad because they have a lot of dissolved salts (they are very hard) and they have a bad taste. This as a consequence of the fact that they are groundwater. These subterranean waters are increasingly contaminated by agrochemicals and sewage where there are no sewage services. For this reason, easily drinkable waters are surface waters of rivers that do not have solutes but only clays, although it should be clarified that rivers are being increasingly bacteriologically and chemically contaminated, due to the fact that raw sewage is dumped into them. The bacteriological quality is achieved with chlorination that is carried out automatically.
2 - Inform the population with insistent advertising that the drinking water supplied to them complies with potability standards. This supervision, at least in the scope of the Province of Santa Fé (Argentina), is strict and is carried out by the Enress (Sanitary Services Regulatory Body) in all towns that have network water service.
3 - Promote the capture of rainwater. Nature offers free pure water that falls from the sky. Why not pick it up if it's safe to drink without testing? In the book "The Suicide of Man" the experience of numerous localities in the interior of the Province of Santa Fé is recounted where it was customary to collect rainwater in cisterns before nets were built. This water can be used for drinking, cooking, washing clothes or watering. Well water was obtained for other purposes.
There are ingenious, very low-cost systems to collect rainwater, which operate automatically by discarding the first roof washing water and subsequently sending the bulk of the precipitation to a tank (Enter in the browser "Rainwater collection systems") . The initial investment is minimal. You just have to have a roof, generally sloping, with collection gutters that many houses have and lead the water to the collection system. On the weekend mentioned in the vicinity of Rosario, the author of these lines installed a small capture system (as a test) that cost a few pesos and that works perfectly. The amount of water that can be collected is important. It is enough to know the annual statistical regime of rainfall. In the case of 900 mm per year (equivalent to 900 liters / square meter) a roof of 100 square meters in horizontal plan can receive 90,000 liters per year (7,500 liters per month). Isn't that surprising? Obviously, the size of the cistern must be dimensioned, anticipating that there may be a long period without precipitation. If the consumption of a house with 4 people is 200 liters / person / day (more than enough), the annual expenditure would be 288,000 liters per year, that is to say that the annual precipitation can reach a third of that amount. If the user is connected to the running water network and avoids taking 90,000 liters from that network, they can save an amount of 90 * $ 2.46 / m3 * = $ 221.40 / year (August 2013) according to the water tariff in a neighboring town to Rosario. This without considering the money you save by avoiding buying bottled water. This possibility of rainwater is of enormous importance if the house does not have mains water and must obtain water from the pool by means of a pump, because in that case it will be suffering the pocket and most likely the health of its inhabitants if they drink that water, unless tests are done periodically.
(*) José Barcia (1937): He was born in Rosario where he currently resides. He received his degree as a Mechanical and Electrical Engineer in 1965 at the Universidad del Litoral. He wrote "The Suicide of Man" in 1 year, but the plan for the book and its title was conceived 20 years ago, at which point his concern for the fate of this civilization unconscious of its own future and legacy began. "In the book I try to inform and divulge the true reasons that are leading the human species to destruction. This sounds exaggerated but it is not ”, affirms the author.