June 3, 2014

The following facts were taken from “WaterAid.org”; and “Conservation.org”.

“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. “

You remember this one from your high school days.   The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in his first edition of Lyrical Ballads.   Along with other poems in Lyrical Ballads, it was a signal shift to modern poetry and the beginning of British Romantic literature.  In the mariner’s case, the water was there but undrinkable.  What if you lived in an area where water was not there or you had to journey hours each day to fetch it?  This is the way millions of people live on a daily basis.


In some parts of our world water is in remarkably short supply.   I have said in one or two previous posts that I believe future wars will be fought over water and not necessarily oil, gold, silver, the grab for power, territory, etc.  (Of course I have been laughed at for saying this.)  The human body needs food and water to survive.  A human can go for more than three weeks without food.   Mahatma Gandhi survived twenty-one (21) daysof complete starvation, but water is a different story.  At least 60% of the adult body is made of water and every living cell in the body needs it to keep functioning.Water acts as a lubricant for our joints, regulates our body temperature through sweating and respiration, and helps to flush waste.   The maximum time an individual can go without water seems to be a week — an estimate that would certainly be shorter in difficult conditions, like broiling heat.

Water scarcity already affects every continent and is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon.  There exists enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion (7) people, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.   The term water scarcity is defined as the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand by all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully.     It is a relative concept and can occur at any level of supply or demand.  Scarcity may be a social construct (a product of affluence, expectations and customary behavior) or the consequence of altered supply patterns – stemming from climate change, for example.

Around 1.2 billionpeople, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.  Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one -quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage.   This is where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers.

Water scarcity is among the main problems faced by many societies and the World in the twenty-first century due to usage growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century alone.    Although right now there is no global water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water.


  • Around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions.
  • With the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region.
  • Water covers 70% of our planet, and it is easy to think that it will always be plentiful. However, freshwater—the stuff we drink, bathe in, irrigate our farm fields with—is incredibly rare. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, and two-thirds of that is tucked away in frozen glaciers or otherwise unavailable for our use.  Groundwater is the water stored deep beneath the Earth’s surface in underground aquifers.  Another 68.6% of all freshwater is stored in glaciers and polar caps.  That leaves only 1.3% of the total freshwater on Earth in surface water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams.  But it is surface water humans and other species rely upon for their biological needs.
  • As a result, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem for 2.4 billion people—they are exposed to diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, and other water-borne illnesses. Two million people, mostly children, die each year from diarrheal diseases alone.
  • Around the world, 768 million people don’t have access to safe water, and every day 1,400 children under the age of five die from water-based diseases.
  • Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems thriving and feed a growing human population have become stressed. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. More than half the world’s wetlands have disappeared. Agriculture consumes more water than any other source and wastes much of that through inefficiencies. Climate change is altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others.
  • In 60 percent of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished.  (Source: World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD))
  • Achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation would save 2.5 million lives every year.
    (WHO, Global Burden of Disease 2004 Update, Geneva: WHO, 2008)
  • Over 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s more than 1,400 children a day.
    (Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimate (IGME) 2014, led by UNICEF and WHO)
  • Diarrhea is the third biggest killer of children under five years old in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    (Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012)
  • Every year, around 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation.
    (UNICEF, 2006. 
  • For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of $4 is returned in increased productivity.
    (Hutton, Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage, WHO, Geneva).

What if something could be done about the water shortage?  Something dramatic that would lessen the burden for millions of people in countries where water is a huge problem.


Designer Arturo Vittori believes the solution to this catastrophe lies not in high technology, but in sculptures that look like giant-sized objects from a furniture catalogue.  The graphic below will show the overall design of his “water tower”.  As you will see, it’s striking.


These two towers are installed and working AND producing water from atmospheric moisture.  The marvelous thing to me is the accumulation of water in the most arid climates.

Vittori and his team have worked on this specific design for two years to ensure the towers are stable, efficient and easily maintained by villagers.  Because the towers are built from locally sourced materials, villagers will be able to maintain, repair and clean the towers themselves.  Each water tower is comprised of two parts: a juncus or bamboo exoskeleton and an internal plastic mesh that has been likened to the bags oranges come in.  The nylon and polypropylene fibers act as a scaffold for condensation, and as the droplets of dew form, they follow the mesh into a basin at the base of the structure. Condensation forms on the Nylon fibers and the dew droplets follow the mesh into a water basin at the base.  The Nylon fibers look as follows:

WarWarka Mesh

His stunning water towers stand nearly thirty (30) feet tall and can collect over 25 gallons of potable water per day by harvesting atmospheric water vapor.  The collection devices are called WarkaWater towers.  These WarkaWater Towers were inspired by the local Warka tree, a large fig tree native to Ethiopia that is commonly used as a community gathering space.   Located inside is the plastic mesh material made from fibers that act as micro tunnels for daily condensation. As droplets form, they flow along the mesh pattern into the basin at the base of the towers. By harvesting atmospheric water vapor in this way, it’s estimated that at least 25 gallons of potable water can be sustainably and hygienically collected by the towers every day.

“WarkaWater is designed to provide clean water as well as ensure long-term environmental, financial and social sustainability,” he says. “Once locals have the necessary know how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the WarkaWater towers.” Each tower costs approximately $550 and can be built in under a week with a four person team and locally available materials.

The JPEG below shows a lady lacing the exoskeleton of an individual tower.

Giant Basket

Please note the amazement of the lady looking at the tower and the work the assembly person is accomplishing.

Top View of WarWarka Tower

This is the top view of the tower.  I feel it is not only utilitarian but definitely a work of art.  Obviously, remarkably functional and capable, under the right circumstances, of saving lives on a daily basis, not to mention lessening serious disease.

I welcome your comments.


January 9, 2013

There are some things in life we cannot control.  As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to believe there are many things we cannot control but, we can prepare for their occurrence and survive to “fight another day”.   Sometimes being prepared is the only defense mechanism we have.   This is my personal belief.   I, quite frankly, have been extremely disappointed with the operation of FEMA and how they have responded to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.   Apparently so much red tape the system simple does not function in a fashion that provides services as designed.  Then again, can anyone really say our government works?

The World Economic Forum Global Risks 2013 report released Tuesday, 8 January 2013, presents a stunning wake up call to the entire world.

The report begins with an unnerving theory that sluggish and stalled economies worldwide are a direct distraction from long-term environmental horrors.  ” Global risks do not respect national borders,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Two storms — environmental and economic — are on a collision course,” says John Drzik, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver Wyman Group, one of several companies which collaborates with the Global Risks report. “If we don’t allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened.”

More than 1,000 experts and industry leaders took part in the survey. Researchers asked them to rate the biggest global threats in five categories: economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical, and technological.  The following points reveal the 10 Most Frightening Environmental Risks, based on the experts’ responses.    These have to eye-openers to you as much as they were to me.  Let’s take a look.

  • Failure to Adapt to Climate Change.  We have ample evidence that our climate, on a global basis, is changing—no doubt.  I don’t think there is consensus in the scientific community that all of the change is due to man-made circumstances.   Our climate is changing.
  • Incurable Pollution.  Air, water, soil, you name it.  Human beings are polluters.  We are sloppy with the resources we have been given to manage.  We must make changes in the way we do business on our globe.
  • Antibiotic –resistant Bacteria.   Every year scientists and doctors identify new strains of bacteria.  Bacteria that mutates from earlier strains.  Bacteria we don’t really know how to handle.
  •  Land and Water Management.    We actually should say mismanagement. We just don’t take care of the resources we have.  I honestly believe the most precious commodity on our planet is not gold, not oil, not plutonium—but water.
  • Mismanaged Urbanization.   Urban density in some cities is so great the infrastructure is collapsing.  Water, sewage, roads, bridges, natural gas pipeline, etc.   Name it and we probably need to fix it or completely replace existing services.
  • Persistent Extreme WeatherCan’t do much to mitigate this one unless global warming is part of the answer.
  • Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
  •  Species Exploitation—Ecosystem Collapse.  Right now, there are five (5) billion individual species of animals, plants, etc on our planet.   Each day one or more is eradicated due to urban sprawl and loss of habitat.
  • Unprecedented Geophysical Destruction.  Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis
  • Vulnerability to Geomagnetic Storms.   Solar flares.

This summary is not very encouraging at all but at least we can agree we have a problem—a big problem.  The issues are bigger than greed, bigger than political parties, bigger than drinking beer at Ruby Tuesdays on Friday night.  We really need to get behind responsible agencies trying to bring sanity towards dinging solutions.


August 20, 2012

QUESTION:  What is the most priceless—most important– commodity on our planet today?    Before you answer, let’s take a look at several commodities getting the most attention on a daily basis:

  • GOLD— $ 1614.00 per ounce
  • SILVER— $28.00 per ounce
  •  PLATINUM–$ 1472.00 per ounce
  •  PALLADIUM–$ 606.00 per ounce
  • OIL— $96.21 per barrel
  •  DIAMOND—Variable

 If we just went by the numbers, we would have to say gold is the most valuable with second place going to Platinum.  One is used for decorative purposes and one used in producing electronic components and other hi-tech assemblies.    I have another candidate.  A commodity that will become increasingly important as the years and decades go by.  I submit to you that in the near future, wars will be fought to secure water rights and access to water itself.  Please take a look at the map below.


The map itself isn’t hard to grasp. The colored areas show the world’s largest aquifers — areas which hold deposits of groundwater. The blue ones are doing fine; more rainfall is flowing into them than is being pumped out of them for homes or irrigating fields. As a result, these aquifers can continue to play a vital role in the environment. (Water in most aquifers doesn’t just sit there. It flows slowly, underground, and ends up sustaining rivers and lakes and all the creatures that live there.)

The aquifers that are painted red, orange, or yellow, meanwhile, are being drained rapidly. How rapidly? That brings us to the complicated part of this graphic.

See those large grey shapes, below the map? Each one is a magnified reflection of an over-exploited aquifer. The amount of magnification represents the amount of water that people are currently pumping out of that aquifer, compared to the rate of natural replenishment. Tom Gleeson, at Montreal’s McGill University, and Ludovicus P. H. van Beek, at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands, created this graphic for an article they published in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

They call those magnified shapes the “groundwater footprint” of each aquifer’s exploitation. The footprint of the Upper Ganges aquifer, for instance, is 54 times bigger than the aquifer itself. Think about that footprint this way: It’s the size, on a map, of the area that would be required to catch enough rainfall to replenish that aquifer and make up for all the water currently being pumped out of it.

Some of these aquifers are being exploited at a stunning rate, but what’s truly alarming is how many people depend on that over-exploitation for their food. These aquifers include the Upper Ganges, covering densely populated areas of northern India and Pakistan, and the North China plain, which is the heart of corn-growing in that country. The aquifer of Western Mexico has become a large source of fruit and vegetable production for the U.S.

The High Plains aquifer in the United States, meanwhile, is having a particularly bad year. Farmers are pumping even more than usual, because of the drought afflicting this part of the country, and it is getting less replenishment from rainfall.  So water levels in the aquifer are falling even faster, leaving less water for the region’s rivers, birds, and fish.

This can’t go on forever. Already, many farmers are being forced to dig deeper wells to get at that water. But bigger changes are on the way:  New irrigation technologies that use water much more efficiently; a shift to different crops that demand less water; and in some areas, they’ll just have to stop using those underground stores of water altogether.  This year, 2012, cattlemen are selling their stock due to the remarkably high price of grain and other feed stocks.     In some parts of our country water rationing occurs due to significant drops in lake and river water levels.  Record wild fires are occurring in the western parts of our country due to lessening of annual rainfall during the “rainy season”.     We could spend a lifetime trying to determine the actual root cause but in the meantime, we have to deal with reality.  Reality says; let’s investigate technologies that can provide needed water quantities to suppliant what we have already.  Some years ago I had an opportunity to visit Dubai, UAE.   Fabulous visit and very insightful in several areas one being; most of their potable water is derived from desalination plants situated in the Persian Gulf.   The water is then treated and piped to the city itself.  I feel that our country needs to start planning right now for an event that is probable, possibly within my lifetime—a severe water shortage.  Your comments are welcomed.

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