Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter
and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column
Published on 01/15/17, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive
Source: In order to preserve our most valuable natural resource – clean, fresh, drinking water, we must explore new ways of handling and protecting current water supplies, as new technology is made available. There have been many technological advances aimed at conserving water usage. They range from small, at home products and scale up to technology and systems for industrial use, all focused on reducing our use of fresh clean water.
Technology that allows us to live cleaner, more convenient lives is constantly developing. One area of concentrated focus where technological advances and improvements are moving at a rapid pace concerns water – its conservation, distribution, and treatment. In some areas of the world, these technologies could not come into existence or be instituted any faster, as some geographic locations deal with a growing population spiraling out of control, placing new demands on available clean fresh water supplies.
Some of these technologies are simple upgrades to already available water treatment products within the home. Others however, are completely innovative and radical by traditional standard, designed to handle water treatment and/or water conservation on a massive scale. The practice of water conservation is nothing new, with methods and technology that have allowed us to improve over time. As we have serious concerns surrounding waste water treatment, and how we can reuse gray water, new ideas have been instituted on deciding when we can use gray water when the situation does not require fresh drinking water supply to complete a function.
One place in the home where water is wasted most frequently is in the bathroom. The toilet’s design has not really changed all that much, but in some cases, the internal parts within the tank have advanced. Some of these toilets have become very efficient in the amount of water it takes to operate it. Tap and flush technology are new regulators and float systems allow for more precise measurement of water needed by the toilet; allowing for the necessary amount of designated water measurement to be used. This is more advanced than the traditional float style regulator. Another innovative, inexpensive technology is a toilet tank bag, which is simple to use and install. The bag is filled with water, then placed in the tank of the toilet. The toilet bag displaces some of the water in the tank and allows for the toilet to use less water when it is replenishing the toilet with water following a flush.
The shower ranks second place in the area of water efficiency loss in the home. Many faucet manufactures have begun to offer high efficiency faucet aerators, shower heads, and faucets. The purpose of these the new faucets is to push the water around through powerful jets, providing a similar effect as if you had more water. These new faucet designs can cut back usage of ten gallons for every ten minutes of shower time. That may not mean much to a household of one, but it would in a household of four to six people, where each person may shower at least once a day. It is estimated that a household of four to six people can save up to 400 gallons a month in water usage using these types of apparatuses. That is over 4800 gallons of water a year savings, which translates into savings in the pocket.
Water flow valves are not well known technology, since they are standard in most homes. Home owners are largely unaware that they can already regulate water usage just by turning the knob of these valve devices. Closing the valve by 50% will allow you to see drastic savings, for in most cases, you do not need the amount of water which exits the faucet to do the job at that time. There are do-it-yourself complete at-home water conservation kits, which range in price, with many under just a few hundred dollars. These kits also provide additional information on how to save on your monthly water usage and include a water flow meter that can measure usage around the house. Then you can fine tune faucets, water valves, and appliances yourself.
One of the latest at-home technologies showing up along Main Street, USA in clean fresh drinking water is the installation of Smart Metering of water usage, and the integration of Smart Watering controls. Regulating and measuring water usage has gone digital, and some would say it is more accurate, saving us thousands of gallons of water per household per month. These meters are more precise in the way they measure usage and control distribution. Advancements in ultrasonic metering have led to many water utilities installing these new meters across the landscape. Ultrasonic water metering and water controlling devices have no or minimal moving parts, allowing for more accurate data about water usage to be provided, and less maintenance of the actual metering unit.
In commercial and industrial applications, the reuse of treated gray water has been gradually accepted for some applications. For the purposes of operating air conditioning and cooling units for buildings and businesses, the reuse of gray water for use inside these machines has been more prevalent in these past few years. Gray water that has been filtered has been used for secondary uses, such as water for cooling systems, irrigation for farming and gardening, and even for reuse at car washes. More research has been conducted in how to extract soap and cleaners from gray water so at some point gray water can be recycled for use in other things such as laundry. Gray water that has been treated is now being sold as a secondary water commodity by waste water treatment facilities and water utilities to help offset treatment cost, while conserving clean fresh water for drinking, showers, and cooking.
Systems for collecting rain water have also grown in popularity. Before we had an understanding on the importance of rain water to our fresh water system, we were unaware of the many opportunities that allowed for us to collect rain water. New practices in creating parking lots with pervious surfaces, either by way of drainage, or by using stone and brick instead of asphalt or concrete paving, has allowed for some commercial building owners to collect runoff rain water into giant holding tanks and cisterns. Subsequently, the collected water is then pumped to distribution locations. This water is then recycled for irrigation of gardens and lawns, or for allocation towards decorative fountains. Rain water has also been used for the washing of buildings and sidewalks.
Commercial businesses are encouraged to install ultra-low flow toilets and faucets as one way to reduce water usage. Commercial buildings that use water to cool equipment can recycle gray water or switch to air cooled equipment for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These types of buildings which still use steam boilers for heat, can upgrade the type of boiler to a machine that will use treated gray water. Many businesses have switched from fossil fuel and water driven utilities to electric, in order to save on the use of water and energy. New commercial dishwashers and ice machines use far less water than previously designed equipment. Although it may seem an expensive investment at first, use of the new equipment will save a restaurant, hotel, hospital, or school thousands of gallons of lost water a year to aging and cafeteria degrading equipment. Commercial appliances with the EPA Water Sense decal have been tested and rated for water conservation and cost savings.
On the side of sustainable manufacturing are the many practices of water conservation, mandated by law. Gone are the days when manufacturing sites were allowed to discharge waste water into local lakes, rivers, and streams. The old mindset was, “out of sight, out of mind,” and polluted water would be sent down the river, only to end up as some else’s environmental hazard. Many manufacturing factories that exist today are responsible for proper hazardous waste disposal, separating waste from the water that carries it. Just like the human body, there is no substitute for clean fresh water in manufacturing goods and products, especially in the making of plastics, vehicles, appliances, and other popular modern conveniences. Factories now filter and recycle water to be reused in processing raw goods.
Water treatment systems for recycling and reusing water have evolved over time. One of the most popular of today’s latest systems is the Membrane Bioreactor system (MBR), which separates and treats different types of liquids and solids. Dissolved air floatation is a type of device that bubbles any contaminate to the surface of water. Then the frothy foam can be skimmed from the top surface of the water. Filtration and softening systems are most commonly found in factories. There, an individual would see oversized units that resemble what a person can find in their home. New systems known as Reject Recovery Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment systems can be found being used in the soda and beverage industry. Sequencing batch recovery systems are found in engine and automobile manufacturing sites.
Other methods of water conservation now practiced by environmentalist include the replacement of protected wetlands and the reclaiming of these natural eco-systems. Research has found that wetlands have served us as a natural filter and barrier. The natural ecosystem of plants, animal life, and soil when mixed with water, naturally filters sediment and other material carried downstream. The wetlands function as a natural water purification system, as it collects pollutants and heavy metals, well before these materials enter the natural waterways or ground water aquifers. Wetlands trap many of these harmful agents and either converts them to less harmful materials, or traps them and buries them into the under-muck layers. Surrounding ecosystems, where ground water has been restored, has aided in lessening the need for humanly created irrigation systems for lawns, gardens, and natural plant life found either at a well decorated office complex or housing unit.