News / Africa

Wastewater Key to Sustaining Life

In this photo taken on April 21, 2012, local residents line up to fetch drinking water from a lake in Rangoon, Burma. (AP Photo)In this photo taken on April 21, 2012, local residents line up to fetch drinking water from a lake in Rangoon, Burma. (AP Photo)
x
In this photo taken on April 21, 2012, local residents line up to fetch drinking water from a lake in Rangoon, Burma. (AP Photo)
In this photo taken on April 21, 2012, local residents line up to fetch drinking water from a lake in Rangoon, Burma. (AP Photo)
Joe DeCapua
The world population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. While efforts are underway to ensure there’s enough food, one scientist is warning there may not be enough water.



Professor Stanley Grant said billions of people don’t have adequate water supplies. That number will only get bigger, he says, unless something is done immediately.

“There are drought conditions across the U.S. and in many parts of the world. So as our planet gets warmer we need more fresh water and as populations grow we also end up using more fresh water. So that’s kind of the big picture backdrop,” he said.

Grant is a professor of environmental engineering at the University of California at Irvine. He’s the author of a new study called Taking the Waste out of Wastewater for Human Water Security and Ecosystem Sustainability.

“The focus of this particular paper is really on moving toward a paradigm shift away from where we really have been for years, which is just simply trying to get more sources of water all the time. And that’s kind of a flawed approach. Eventually you run out of new sources of water. You can’t tap into rivers that are already dry. You have to come up with a new approach. And the new approach really is focused around improving the productivity of the water that you already have. And that means basically getting more value out of that water,” he said.

Water is essential for life, which is why it’s at the heart of tensions in many regions. For example, many countries draw water from the Nile River and there’s often disagreement over how much each should get.

“The Nile is an interesting example. It’s one of a number of examples. Colorado River in the United States, the Yellow River in China would be other examples. These major rivers have been tapped out so much that basically they’re dry by the time they get to their deltas,” he said.

Grant said important ecosystems that rely on those and other rivers could be destroyed and people downstream won’t have enough water.

He added limited fresh water supplies make recycling wastewater and sewage effluent necessary.

“That can involve using highly treated wastewater for activities where you don’t need really high quality water, like landscape irrigation, for example. Or it can involve using super advanced methods to treat the water to sometimes better than potable standards and actually drinking it,” he said.

It’s already being done in some places.

“Israel is kind of leading the world in terms of using recycled wastewater for agricultural purposes. In Singapore, for example, wastewater recycling is being used to provide water for industrial applications. In the U.S. we have a couple of wastewater reclamation facilities. For example, the Orange County water District in Orange County near where I live is recycling wastewater using very advanced techniques. And then essentially infiltrating it into the groundwater basin here and that groundwater eventually is extracted and put back in the potable water supplies,” he said.

Residents of Melbourne, Australia have also begun to conserve and recycle water as a result of a prolonged drought. Stanley says much of the world should be doing the same.

“If the trajectories for global climate change continue as they appear to be headed, we could see in our lifetime some really tragic situations where, for example, megacities essentially run out of water and have to be abandoned. That almost happened in Chennai, India a couple of years ago where there was a prolonged drought and at some point water wasn’t coming out of taps and there was no ground water to be had. And the city planners had to begin think about drawing up plans for evacuating the city,” he said.

The University of California professor added that megacities that are expected to emerge in coming years, in Africa for example, could face similar problems. Grant says the technology exists to recycle and treat wastewater. However, the big hurdle will be to convince Western nations that such water can taste good.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs