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)

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid