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Behind Food, Energy and Climate Crises Looms Water and Sanitation

Sanitation
Modes of sanitation for the global population. Click to enlarge. Data: SIWI.

The World Water Week in Stockholm concluded with 2,400 scientists, leaders from governments and civil society declaring that slow progress on sanitation will cause the world to badly fail the Millennium Development Goals while weak policy, poor management, increasing waste and exploding water demands are pushing the planet towards the tipping point of global water crisis.

This theme of the 2008 World Water Week was “Progress and prospects on water: for a clean and healthy world”. Eight workshops had two parallel directions. One set were sanitation-related and referred to safe handling of human excreta; the other related to water-carried pollutants and how to address water pollution abatement, wrote Professor Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in a summary of the week.

The scale of the sanitation issue is “unbelievable” wrote Falkenmark. Out of a world population of 6.7 billion, only 1.1 billion have access to conventional sewage. Three billion use other types of toilets from pit latrines to poor flush/cess pits, while the remaining 2.6 billion use simple open defecation.

Why is sanitation so fundamental? Beyond human dignity and defecation security, the main reason is that human health critically depends on safe handling of human excreta—the origin of pathogen-related diseases. The disease link makes sanitation and hygiene nothing less than an imperative for any society to function properly.

—Prof. Falkenmark

Water pollution may originate from human excreta, from industry and agriculture. As water gets increasingly scarce, pollution abatement and waste water reuse strategies increase in importance. There is, wrote Falkenmark, a new attention to upstream/downstream linkages and of seeking the pollution source.

Allow me now some personal reflections: First of all, there is nothing really new with the sanitation or the water pollution issue. When reading the abstracts, I got a strong feeling of déjà vue—I read much of all this already in the 1970’s and 80’s. Both sanitation and water pollution abatement have been on the international agenda since the time of the UN Water Conference in Mar del Plata in 1977. Still after 30 years, the core problem still remains: lack of implementation of the promise of safe drinking water and sanitation to everyone. Still after 30 years, more than one third of the world population is referred to open defecation—this corresponds to the added population of India and China!

What are then the central barriers that have to be overcome? One challenge is probably the scale and the time it will therefore take. My sense of repetition maybe signifies that there is now a new generation out there who are reinventing the wheel, and have once again to convince skeptical politicians that transfer of diseases through infected water effectively hinders durable socio-economic development, but can be stopped by safe sanitation and hygiene. This enters a component of transgenerational transfer of knowledge.

This leaves us with a final question: Is there nothing new? There is indeed some quite encouraging information in the reports from the field. The first one is the use of schools as entry point by demonstration projects. This may in fact be a quite effective way of general awareness-raising by reaching their parents too. The second one is the nutrient reuse of human waste as agricultural fertilizer that is now taking form under the concept “productive sanitation”. After more than 10 years, the Stockholm Water Symposium call for nutrient recycling is indeed starting to come true. This represents an opportunity of global significance in a time of rising peak oil, of rising costs of fertilizers, and of dwindling phosphorus-mineral sources.

—Prof. Falkenmark

Comments

Jer

Water as with money is most successful when its flow and cycling through the 'system' is fast, efficient, and unimpeded. Water, unlike oil, is not 'used up' per se (none is 'destroyed') - it is endlessly re-cycled from groundwater, surface water, atmosphere, intermediate 'uses' (agriculture, industry, people, etc.) - we all know the hydrological cycle. The key is to keep the water clean and widely available. Advancing (and widely distributing) technology to clean, deliver, and manage water will mean eliminating the uncertainty of droughts and flooding. Dealing with 'grey' water will minimize water maintenance at the municipal level. Flood control (both in overbuilt, impervious urban zones and locations like the plains of Bangladesh) will reduce non-potable water contamination. Smart use of agricultural chemicals will prevent water from being in an unusable 'dead' state. At this time, there is water enough for everyone. It is just poorly distributed, used, and managed. Unlike energy, the technology currently exists to meet even westernized usage levels the whole world over.

stas peterson

Global Warming isn't selling any more. CO2's ability to alter the climate is proving negligible. CO2 isn't any danger, except its scarcity stunts plant growth.

The Doomsters who make a living scaring the bejesus out of everyone have latched onto water as the new End-of-the-World issue.

The truth is we ARE transitioning away from future limited stocks of fossil fuel. Electric vehicles are mere years away and fossil supplies exists for centuries at present consumption rates and wil exists for millernia when we stop burninfg it, in a decade ot two.

Fission has been perfected and is now meltdown proof. Fusion is coming. Even rediculous concepts liek Wind and Solar are being built, in tiny numbers.

Man's energy sources are expanding and the limitations are receding.

The World outlook is actually bright. Its tough to find much that actually can scare people any more.

Since water can't be destroyed except in nuclear reactions and hydrolysis, there can't be any problem. Especially since water covers 70% of the Earth's surface.

But myopic Mr. Sachs of Columbia, has decreed its a Dooms Day issue. and the usual idiots have jumped aboard.

GlobalBaloney.

HarveyD

Total water volume may never be a world problem. However, the access to low cost clean potable water is becoming a major problem in many areas.

Many Americans have their eyes pointing north to solve this growing essential liquid shortage.

Will we have FRESH WATER wars in the future?

Trehugger

Stas Peterson is a scam and a fraud

- "CO2 proven negligible to alter the climate" : where are your poof ?

- "we are transitionning away from fossil energy " : Wrong foosil energy extraction keeps going up.

- Fossil energy supplies esist for centuries : Wrong all fossil energies production summed will peak in 2040-2050 and delines afterward.

- "Electric car are mere aways" : no proven yet, and electricity is mainly made from coal and natural gaz, nuclear portion is only 16% and is decreasing.

-"Fusion is coming " : wrong again, proof of concept yes, but not proof of commercial application any time soon if ever.

- "wind and solar ridiculous concept" : for Stan Peterson only, most experts agree that renewable energy will represent a significant chunk of energy production in the decads to come.

- "Since water can't be destroyed there can't be any problem" : this single sentence shows how imbecile and stupid is the simplistic reasoning of mister Stas Peterson. Most experts agree that for half of the world population fresh water is and will be THE problem in the years to come. Desalinisation can be used for domestic application but given teh high enegergy inout required it can't be used for agriculture.

Yes man ingenuity can solve a lot of problem, but humanity is also creating a in-chain series of problems that are growing faster than the man ingenuity can keep pace with.

All Stas-Peterson messages are lies fraud and misunderstanding

Jer

@Trehugger:

We all know he's an uninspired fraud. He's just a sad and lonely man that's looking for attention - don't give it to him.

stas peterson

@ treehugger,

If you can't see the effects of the coming Electrification of Ground Transport, why are you reading these pages? Are you denying that such efforts are being made, as reported daily here, merely a mirage? Hybridization and electric vehicles are coming in mere years. That is the sole, remaining growing market for Oil. All its other markets have found substitutes and converted. All its other markets are much, much smaller, and all are declining, over time. Conversion of Ground Transport solves the problem of Oil. Both the geo-political problems; as well as the economic problems associated with it. If you can't see that, you are truly blind.

Water isn't destroyed in most uses; it merely needs to be used, reused, and cleaned more effectively. If you have the energy and will, its a simple non-problem. Bjorn Lomberg condemned his environmental brethren for that reason. He wanted to do something about bad water,and i agree. Meanwhile the World IS doing something about bad water.
Yet most eco-wackos will tell the poverty stricken third world, that you have to lower your expectations; you have to live with dirty, polluted water. You must be happy to die young. Despite the eco-wackos urging that it should NOT be done, and efforts and monies expended elsewhere, like chasing a will-of-the wisp, like GHGs fantasies. If you can't see that is both immoral and untenable position, you must be truly blind.

If you can't see that the "Global Temperature" whatever that is, has been going DOWN for a decade, while reported CO2 levels are monotonically going UP, you have to be truly blind. CO2's warming effect has been overwhelmed by other climactic effects; ergo its effect MUST BE tiny. Much tinier than at first postulated. As befits its trace gas portion of the atmosphere.

Even the IPCC is committed to reducing its presumed effects by over 70% in the 2012 update. It will return CO2 to a 5.7 year proved lifetime in the atmosphere; from the presently postulated but unproved, 25, 50, 100, 150 or 300 year estimates, depending on the exaggerations of the AGW Warmists.

Open you eyes and look at the UK and Danish and Texas experiments with Windmill power. If they worked T Boone Pickens wouldn't be constantly on TV, trying to urge you to bail him out of his windmill debacle. If you can't see that they are ridiculous, and rife with unanticipated costs, short 9 year lifetimes, and worst of all, insoluble grid stability issues, you have to be truly blind.

If you don't see that ITER at Cadarache is both the last Fusion Physics experiment; and the first attempt at a very rough, at-scale prototype of a Fusion power plant, you must be truly blind. We now know how to liberate Fusion power in controlled fashion. We can control theinstabilities. We are now merely addressing the commercialization of it. Making it reliable, routine, and inexpensive. It will take a few decades, but that is a momentary blink of the eye, in the scale of things. If you can't see that, you are truly blind.

You want solar and wind power. I am fine with that. Every little bit helps. You can have them. But its not the solution, except for a minor contribution. It's not a panacea. If you can't see that, you are truly blind.

Why the vitriol? You are usually much more thoughtful?


tom deplume

Stan,
Could you give us the names of these 'eco-wackos" who are opposed to providing clean water to the world's poor. What I see are right wing, free market extremists who insist the poor die of thirst if they can't afford to pay for what little water they use.

The quantity of money available for foreign aid and third world development is not infinite. Every dime diverted to inanities like fighting CO2, is a dollar NOT spent on potable water, fighting diseases, or other more effective uses. Disregarding the free plant fertiliazer that CO2 represents to impoverished third worlsd farmers.

But its not only the third world that suffers. The California eco-crazies have closed down all but one nuclear reactor in California; they have almost closed all the old dirty coal generation plants except for standby usage. They have prevented the replacement of old dirty coal plants with much cleaner and up to 20% more efficient "clean coal" equivalents,equipped with modern pollution controls. They have mandated the building of wildly expensive solar and wind farms; then they stranded the power from them in the desert by refusing to build "unsightly" transmission lines to bring the officially approved "renewable power" to market. They have rejected hydro-electricity for some mysterious religious reason as "not renewable any longer". Presumeably the rain has forever ceased to fall, and run into rivers and reservoirs.

All these costs have been piled onto the California citizens. There has been no attempt to build desalinization plants for cities sitting right on the seascoast, because there is "no power" to run them.

Instead they pump water from Colorado thousands of miles to Los Angeles. That can't be efficient, but they don't complain about it, yet.

If you want eco-wacko names just fill in the officers of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and the elected ninnies like Nmncy Pelosiand the Guvernator, who want to "save the world", mostly in the Jackass Party. And don't forget the chief, cynical nincompoop, Algore. If he really believed all his money-making propaganda that he peddles, he would hardly have purchased a multi-room Mansion at a few feet about sealevel. After all it will be 60 feet below the ocean's surface in ten years or so, according to him and his sock puppet Hansen...

gr

The debate between Stan and the Collective is well worth the price of admission here. Stan's thinking is not without logic and though he has his bias - it is easily balanced by his detractors. However...

"Since water can't be destroyed except in nuclear reactions and hydrolysis, there can't be any problem."

In chemical hydrolysis water is split into hydrogen and hydroxide ions, as in polymer degradation. Organic chemistry considers it to be the opposite of condensation, usually reversible. Inorganic chemistry hydrolysis unusually refers to the addition of a water molecule to salts creating new salts, oxides or hydrates. So, you must mean electrochemical hydrolysis or electrolysis - in which case the O2 and H2 recombine in atmosphere to create new water for precipitation. Only a small amount of H2 escapes beyond the atmosphere.

As to the advent of fusion in commercial forms - it has many competitors now. And there is still the thorny problem of centralized power sources, expensive, inefficient distribution and waste. Small scale low temp electrolysis will be introduced in Residential Power Units at very low (comparative) costs.

Good point about Cali and desalination. Some of that wind/solar should be making fresh water - even at less than potable for the agriculture industry which consumes the vast majority of water there.

And yes, there are some people who cannot make their points without catastrophe - it is the alienable weakness of news editors whose credo is: "If it Bleeds, It Leads."

aym

@Stan,

Other sectors of the economy have been fooled into making short term choices because of past cheap energy and with attitudes like yours, will continue to waste huge amounts of energy into the future. Electrification of the transport sector is still a ways off and will continue to be unless the federal gov't mandates it. Slow market acceptance and the ability of the companies to change and the lifetimes of the cars themselves will limit the change period.

Water gets used up all the time. Large amounts of agriculture in Texas for instance is based on the use of a huge underground aquifer. It certainly isn't being replaced. In some places, there is salt water incursion that requires that some freshwater be pumped back down to create enough pressure to push out the salt water incursion. The great lakes require that yearly, the water be replaced with inflows from rivers for instance. Lately, the lake levels have dropped. There is an association of cities both US and Canadian, trying to figure it out and protect them.

The temperature isn't been going down for the last decade. 11 of the last 13 years have been the hottest on record. The use of '98 as a start date is cherry picking. Try using moving averages and it becomes clear that the temperatures are rising.

Your use of Bjørn Lomborg is disingenuous. He believes in global warming and actually doing something although I don't believe in the pandering he does to other interests. You don't believe in it at all.

Your assertions of what the IPCC going to do is totally false. The IPCC collates the information of the various climate studies done. Where are the studies or the references that support your assurtions?

The lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is defined as the time required to restore equilibrium following an increase in its concentration in the atmosphere. Individual atoms or molecules may be lost or deposited to sinks such as the soil, the oceans and other waters, or vegetation and other biological systems, reducing the excess to background concentrations. It would take far longer than just 5.7 years. It takes 30 years to remove 50% of the CO2 and it decreases in a non linear fashion. In centuries, 70% persists. (national geographic) Meanwhile we will keep pumping it out. You may want to redefine what atmospheric lifetime means but that's it's definition.

ITER and nuclear. We've had this discussion before. It is decades away by their own reckoning and like many collaborative efforts in the past will probably be delayed and not as effective as believed. By their own reckoning, ITER will be more expensive than fission. It is technically sweet but then some reality should be injected into it.

Solar and wind don't have the huge complexities of nuclear and their negatives which are huge and largely understated. They have their own disadvantages and advantages. The DOE is pushing for at least 20% wind, which can be handled by the present infrastructure (or at least its level of preparedness). If certain technologies pan out for solar, it too can be a major contributor. These percentages can be increased if buffering technologies are encouraged like pump storage which forms 20 GW of the present US capacity. It certainly won't be minor.

aym

Would just like to clarify the CO2 lifetime figures. These are quite variable and contentious especially since they are effected by effects on sinks and well as bio cycling. Some figures are around 50 years at best and they go up as seen in the figures from national geographic. I have never seen such lowballed figures as 5.7 years and certainly don't represent the views of mainstream science on the matter.

MG

Just an observation:

I noticed, over many months, that more than 50% of posters (wrongly) write 'STAN' instead of 'STAS' (Mr Peterson's name, just 4 letter long).
Maybe I'm just too much detail oriented, or some other people are not.

aym

@MG,

actually Stas/Stan started writing in this group as Stan, then it kept changing for some reason :) (both his first and last name) but since the actual rhetoric never really changes, I can deduce it's Stan right off the bat. For example, I've seen, what I assume to be a slavic version of his last name "Peterson" being used both with Stas and Stan.

I've had epic, long lasting ah... interactions with him in the past especially on nuclear power. For those who have visited this site for a while, Stan knows who he is and so do we.

Treehugger

Ms Stas or Stan Peterson

I will stop my Vitriol when you will tone down your politicaly oriented and ethically incorrect provocative and fraudulent attitude. Right? so I am feeling like it won't happen any time soon given your consistency in insulting people who don't share you pure fantasy of viewpoint and posting wrong fact as if they were scientifically proven

Now I will not arguee agin with you since discussion is truly impossible with people like you.

Just one thing : water can't be destroyed but FRESH water is actually being destroyed faster than replenished (how do you call this ?). Aquifers are depleted faster than they replenish, some country are pumping aquifer that are fossilized water, like Saoudia and Libya, they will NEVER replenish, in US giant aquifer were filled during the last de-glaciation 15 000 years ago they will not replenish either. Mountains glacier are being washed away at an outstanding pace (probably because the earth is cooling) they will not come back.

So do you research you will look lees ridiculous

HarveyD

Here is good fresh drinking water news.

We live near the USA north border and have an extra 100 billion cubic meters/year of fresh drinking water for sale @ $0.65/M3. (confirmed by the local Large Business Association)

For a mere $65 billion/year,(only about $200/year/capita) all Americans could have more than enough fresh drinking water every day for the next 1000+ years.

Selling all this unused fresh drinking water to our thirsty neighbours would cover all the cost of our free comprehensive Medicare System + 25 new fully equipped Mega-hospitals ++.

Installing the reinforced polypropylene, very large pipeline network required would cost a few $B, but would be a very good long term investment.

Another side benefit...no more bottled fresh drinking water required. Our fresh water is very pure.


The bids start @ $0.65/M3 at the source.

Hey, that's Canada's water you're talking about. The US can have that stuff from the tar sands tailing ponds since it's a direct result of US demand but the fresh stuff, should be more than that. ;)

Axil

On June 23, 2008 it was reported that Siemens Water Technologies had developed a new technology that desalinizes one cubic meter of water while using only 1.5 kwh of energy, which, according to the report, is one half the energy that other processes use.

Nuclear power = $03.3/kwh

You figure the cost out.

aym

The cost of this lower energy water desalinization points out the reality of the cost of the eco-services provided by the environment for free and which are wasted or being compromised. It makes no sense to destroy or marginalize such fundamental necessities when the cost to replace them is so high.

Water from the Colorado is used to mostly in agricultural irrigation works in southern California, not LA.

ALthough desalinization is possible in the urban west, I doubt it is feasible for agriculture or in some of the places the report describes. Open sewers and nuclear powered desalinization don't mix.

Just watching

The aquifer in SE. Arkansas has droped 200 feet in the last 40 years and some of our neighbors are seeing salt in their water. Salt is death to farm land. Last year it cost over $10,000/ month to irrigate 140A. of rice and 180A. soy beans. This year we only had water for 90A. of rice and the beans had to get by on rain water.
It takes water for farmers to make your food people so get ready to be hungry.

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