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What water purification methods are there?

We already know some facts about the water problem in the world. On the one hand, we know that only a small percentage of the planet’s water is fresh (around 2.5%). In addition, it is estimated that of this percentage only 0.3% is on the surface in the form of rivers, lagoons or aquifers. And to this is added that most of these water reserves are so contaminated that they cannot be consumed directly.

The water purification systems are one of the solutions to alleviate the problem of lack of water, so in this post, we will know in depth all the details about this problem and its possible solutions.

Human activity as the basis of water pollution

Much of this water pollution comes from human activity, such as agriculture, livestock, industry, mining, poor management of urban solid waste (garbage) or urban wastewater discharged without adequate treatment.

We also commented in a previous post that the main pollutants that we can find in water can be classified into:

  1. Microorganisms: bacteria, viruses, protozoa, etc. (they cause diseases such as cholera, typhus, hepatitis, etc.)
  2. Inorganic: sulfates, sulfites, nitrates, phosphates, etc.
  3. Organic: hydrocarbons, phenols, cyanide, etc.
  4. Metals : chromium, nickel, iron, aluminum, lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.
  5. Emerging pollutants: medications, steroids, etc.

This great variety of pollutants that can be present in surface and groundwater makes their purification very complicated and expensive, since on many occasions specific treatments must be provided for each one of them.

Another additional difficulty is the fact that the composition of water pollutants can vary throughout the year. Thus, the origin can come from sporadic industrial discharges, rains in some hydrographic basins that carry certain types of substances, etc. For this reason, it is necessary to analyze the water periodically to know its composition, propose a suitable purification method and adjust it constantly.

But, what methods of water purification exist ? What degree of purity do they reach? When are one or the other applied? What advantages and disadvantages do they have?

Although these questions cannot be answered quickly or understood without a good scientific basis, as they are in fact the subject of specific professional courses and masters, we give you a few brief strokes that can clarify them.

Water purification and purification methods

Depending on the origin and state of the water, and depending on its final destination, various treatment stations or plants are used. Although we have observed that in different countries they receive slightly different names, most of the time they respond to these names and acronyms:

They are large facilities that collect water from relatively clean rivers, lakes or aquifers. Through physical processes (such as decantation or filtration) and chemical (such as the addition of reagents to cause flocculation, chlorination, etc.) they make the water drinkable, preparing it for consumption.

Its main characteristic is that it is composed of a large number of round or rectangular pools through which the water passes. During this journey, they are removing or reducing the concentration of each of the pollutants that it can bring. They are very expensive and are designed to supply large and medium-sized populations.

purification-water-role

Although not all these plants achieve an optimal level of purity, it can be said that they are the ones that leave water more suitable for human consumption.

These facilities take urban or industrial wastewater and treat it enough to be able to discharge it into rivers, lakes or seas. In this way they still contain contaminants, but less than before their treatment.
In its process, physical methods are also used: sandblasting, roughing or removal of solids such as paper or wet wipes, sedimentation, degreasing, etc .; chemicals, also by adding chemical products to cause flocculation, oxidation or absorption of the main pollutants; and biological. The latter consists of the passage of water through pools or beds where there are certain bacteria and microorganisms that feed on biodegradable organic substances.
Its size and cost depend on the volume and condition of the water to be treated and the existing regulations. This regulation establishes the degree of purification necessary before its discharge. Thus, stations of this type can be very large and expensive, or relatively small and more affordable.

They carry out a subsequent and additional treatment to the WWTP or WWTP. With it, it is possible to reuse the regenerated waters, instead of dumping them into nearby rivers, lakes or seas. This tertiary treatment usually consists of using disinfectants to reduce the concentration of microorganisms.

Reclaimed water is normally used for irrigation of parks and gardens, or for some industrial applications.

treatment-purification-water

It is a physical-chemical process that basically consists of passing water at a very high pressure through a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane ensures that the water that manages to cross it leaves behind salts, molecules, etc. In this way, it is ready for use, normally after chlorination processes, etc.
For years they have been used mainly for the desalination of sea water. However, many of the desalination plants have been closed due to their high energy cost and the high pollution they cause. The current of water that cannot cross the membrane drags a higher concentration of pollutants that deplete underwater life wherever it is discharged. In addition, it wastes large volumes of water.
The water obtained with this method is of an acceptable quality for general use. However, its chemical qualities (absence of beneficial mineral salts for the body) and organoleptic qualities (mainly flavor) mean that most users do not consider it suitable to be drunk.

Water purification: a vital challenge

In summary, there are various industrial means for the water purification . Its use depends on various parameters, such as volume, origin, destination, available budget, etc. Furthermore, they are not fixed treatments, but rather allow a greater or lesser degree of purification.

In future posts we will deal with each of these plants or stations in more detail, as they are of great interest to know the type of water we consume and the environmental impact of its use.

As we have already commented, the treatment of surface waters allows to have large volumes of water, but they are usually expensive and complex methods due to the large amount of possible pollutants present in them.

The main advantage of Rain of Life atmospheric water generators is that they start from a very homogeneous water (the condensation water of the humidity of the air is practically the same anywhere in the world and at any time of the year) and without pollutants. Therefore, after the appropriate purification process in which, for example, beneficial mineral salts are added to the body, it is optimal for drinking and cooking.

In this way, RoL generators coexist perfectly with others Water treatment systems , such as ETAP, PTAP or reverse osmosis. These systems offer large volumes of water but on many occasions of a clearly insufficient quality for human intake.

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The benefits of using rainwater: in search of balance

Natural resources have always been a source of inspiration for our ancestors who lived finding alternatives to the lack of technology or developments to survive.

Currently there are indigenous populations that even continue to use ancestral systems of natural resource management for their day to day. The use of rainwater is one of the most versatile and ecological actions that the environment offers us and that little by little we forget to put into practice.

Water and Life.

Water is the most important natural resource for any living being. It is the vital element that ensures the development of biological processes necessary for the proliferation of life on our planet. A valuable resource, necessary, but not always given the importance it deserves. It is a staple good that constitutes more than 80% of most living organisms and that plays a leading role in mechanisms such as photosynthesis, essential for the balance of the ecosystem.

Despite knowing all these details, human beings have for years lost the perspective of their true dependence on this vital element, becoming a mere consumer product.

Now we realize again that, without water, there is no life.

How much water do we need?

Although there are variations in water consumption depending on geographical locations, on average the human being consumes 1.5 liters of water per day. In addition, to cook we need between 6 and 8 liters and for other necessities (personal hygiene, washing machines, washing dishes, etc.) each person has been consuming more than 170 liters of water daily.

Rainwater: the gift from heaven

Our ancestors were already clear that rain was a gift and as such they used it for different uses: cleaning, sewage, etc. Collecting rainwater was an integrated process in the life of human beings throughout our planet, since with it solutions were sought on a day-to-day basis. Washing, watering and even personal hygiene were the destination of those drops that accumulated in more or less archaic tanks for the collection of that water. Cisterns from the Arab world are the forerunners of current rainwater storage systems. These, in turn, descend from the monumental cisterns that were built in the Roman Empire to deposit that rainwater, which would later be used in agriculture and other uses.

The ancient Mayans, for their part, had their chultunes, their own cisterns in which they kept both water and corn and were built as underground chambers.

Industrialization gradually began to cause adverse effects on the quality of rainwater, being detrimental to human consumption due to its content of polluting elements harmful to health.

Most of the planet’s waters have physical-chemical and bacteriological pollutants that prevent their direct intake. Surface and underground water sources that were reliable yesterday are now heavily polluted:

  • Fertilizers used in agriculture,
  • Over-exploitation of livestock,
  • Irregular mining,
  • Lack of purification of urban, industrial wastewater, etc.
  • There are various means of purifying water, after which the water can be used for personal hygiene, but in many cases not for drinking and cooking.

The current purification systems mean that we can even treat that rainwater to consume it with all the guarantees.

rain water

Collecting rainwater: a wise decision.

The scarcity of water due to global warming is a reality, and that is why taking advantage of natural resources in a sustainable way is the guarantee for the future of our planet.

That is why collecting rainwater for domestic use is an interesting option, especially when we use it for irrigation. The stored rainwater does not contain chemicals or other elements that are harmful to plants. Similarly, its use in sewerage systems reduces the carbon footprint helping us to care for the environment.

Rainwater is practically distilled water, but without the minerals that are necessary for us. In addition, when we store it, it can become contaminated if, for example, the tank is not perfectly clean. To make rainwater drinkable, we must have adequate equipment that allows us to eliminate impurities and also provide that water with the necessary minerals so that it is totally suitable for our consumption.

That is why Rain of Life has developed equipment that performs the function of collecting rainwater, which is stored in a tank, keeping it in perfect condition until it is purified and consumed. In this way, both in homes or small businesses and in larger offices and schools, the RoL50 and RoL1.000 atmospheric water generators can be located with their solar kits that carry out the channeling and purification of the collected rainwater.

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War and water. The incidence of conflicts in access to drinking water

Attacks on sanitation infrastructures are one of the main threats in areas affected by armed conflicts. Not only bombs and other attacks by land, sea or air are the center of the problem. Populations whose water and sanitation infrastructures are undermined by these attacks suffer the most devastating consequences, especially in the case of children and the elderly, the most vulnerable.

The flow of water as a guarantee of life and health

When a water infrastructure is affected by military attacks, the flow of water stops and the proliferation of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea begins. In addition, the civilian population is forced to move in search of drinking water, thus increasing their risk of exposure to the conflict. According to UNICEF in its report on Attacks on water and sanitation services in armed conflicts and the impacts on children In these types of situations, children are more likely to die from water diseases than from direct violence.

Good quality drinking water is a guarantee for those who in these circumstances see their supply diminished or destroyed. It is here when the different actors must review their action plans and think about different supply alternatives, such as supply systems. extraction, condensation and purification of Rain Of Life water. Alternative systems that manage to alleviate this lack of populations subjected to the armed conflict.

Armed conflicts where attacks on sanitation services and water supply are frequent

The aforementioned UNICEF report focuses primarily on five countries affected by armed conflict that have documented frequent systematic attacks on water and sanitation services, as well as the misuse of infrastructure and the denial of access to personnel, who have had a devastating impact on children: State of Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Yemen.

Specifically in Iraq, In Iraq, where the degree of security outside Baghdad is very low, the parties armed for the conflict have taken advantage of opportunities to control water infrastructures in places far from urban centers.

In addition, in these conflicts, attacks on any area of infrastructure, for example, energy can have devastating effects on water, sanitation and other services because in many cases the flow of water depends on electrical pipeline systems that also involve the center of the bullseye for those who want to destroy a town in favor of the success of the battle.

The attacks that cause this damage are usually predominantly from the air (for example, aerial attacks with large bombs or missiles, rocket and drone attacks) or from the ground (explosive weapons in common use include indirect firearm systems such as mortars, rockets and artillery, multi-barreled rocket launchers and certain types of improvised explosive devices). In addition, attacks can cause direct impacts on any aspect of the infrastructure, equipment or consumables necessary to operate the systems, or on the personnel who operate and administer the systems. During the war, the parties to the conflict interrupt and render useless water and sanitation services by looting spare parts, consumables or fuel necessary to keep the systems in operation.

Humanitarian personnel are often at high risk when working in conflict-affected contexts. Personnel can be injured or killed while operating, maintaining or repairing critical water and sanitation infrastructure.

Attacks on people who operate essential services can be part of a broader tactic to disable or degrade the civilian population. Without a doubt, everything adds up when it comes to ending who is considered an enemy, even if children or innocent collaborators who try to end the disasters of war fall along the way.

Children, the big ones affected by the lack of water

The Children’s rights convention of 1989 already defines as a fundamental right the right to drinking water and sanitation, as well as access to food, medical care and protection. However, the persistence of conflicts pose a clear threat to these fundamental rights.

That is why UNICEF proposes in this Convention to work to achieve three main objectives:

  1. Stop attacks on water and sanitation personnel and infrastructure.
  2. Create systems for the provision of good quality water and sanitation services on a sustained basis during emergencies.
  3. Combine life-saving humanitarian responses with the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all.

To do this, it is necessary to create systems that can guarantee the right to adequate water and sanitation and prevent disease outbreaks. Furthermore, this requires humanitarian and development organizations to collaborate early on to establish resilient systems.

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Water and Health: The Role of Drinking Water in the Fight Against Tropical Diseases

When we talk about Tropical diseases We refer to those infectious diseases that occur and are transmitted in places where heat and humidity reach extreme levels. Thus, countries located in the tropics are the most affected by this type of disease and drinking water is an indisputable ally in the fight against them.

Malaria, dengue or sleeping sickness are some examples of these types of ailments. This list is increased by the calls neglected tropical diseases (EDTs) , those that also affect populations with a high level of poverty and lack of resources, such as the Zhika virus or the chikungunya

How are tropical diseases transmitted?

Most of these diseases are parasitic, that is, transmitted by carrier insects whose habitat has high temperatures and stagnant waters, although many others are spread by contaminated water. Insects act as vectors transmitting from an infected man to a healthy man the parasites, bacteria or viruses that are the real causes of diseases. Malaria, dengue fever, amoebiasis, schistosomiasis, cholera, and filariasis are the most common tropical diseases.

Even so, there are also non-parasitic diseases, some transmitted by bacteria, such as leprosy or tarcoma, or by viruses. Water-infested soils are a breeding ground for some types of worm that lead to zoonosis infections, and in many others, direct ingestion of contaminated water is the direct cause of infection.

The relationship between poor access to water and disease

The relationship between the absence of drinking water and disease is therefore evident, and the proliferation of these diseases in places with poor sanitation leads to extreme spending on health systems that cannot be relaxed in an environment of infinite epidemic.

When we talk about drinking water, we are not only referring to water suitable for consumption, but also to decontaminated water that allows us to clean and hygiene our hands, clothes and surfaces. Washing hands, face or wounds is essential to fight against blindness due to trachoma, intestinal worms, infection of the lymphatic system by lymphatic filariasis, or infection from rabies bites.

The role of water in the WHO action plan

In 2015 the WHO published the Action Plan for the Elimination of Neglected Infectious Diseases 2016-2022 in which he developed the guidelines to fight against said diseases. The Executive Council, after its meeting in February 2020, defined the new roadmap for NTDs with scope between 2021 and 2030, dates in which to reach the Sustainable Development Goals in which water plays a leading role. And it is that the WHO wants to agree with all the actors involved in this action plan to increase global awareness about the collateral benefits of improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene on the eradication of TDS.

The economic aspect also counts in the action plans for the fight against EDT and is that the WHO calculates that for every dollar invested in improving drinking water, governments get 5 dollars in return thanks to the reduction in medical costs and improving productivity.

This new WHO Roadmap has four main objectives :

  • Reduce 90% of medical interventions due to NTD
  • Reduce 75% of life years lost due to NTD-related disability.
  • Get 100 countries on the planet to have at least one NTD eradicated
  • Fight for the global eradication of guinea worm and yaws.

To achieve these objectives, the WHO considers it essential to move from theory to practice by promoting projects that make the improvement of the populations most affected by EDT a reality thanks to the improvement of access to drinking water.

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