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
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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid