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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs