DailyDirt: Don't Drink The Water

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Water is abundant in most places, and it’s generally free — except for folks who only drink bottled water. So people tend to take water for granted, but there are plenty of reasons to conserve water. Here are just a few reminders.

By the way, StumbleUpon can also recommend some good Techdirt articles, too.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Don't Drink The Water”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Wastewater engineers are approaching this thing in the wrong way, you don’t change the identity, you allow people to test it for themselves, make a system that can purify water to drinking standards and make people use it to filter that water with another excuse, some people will start using that water for other purposes of course and they will spread the word inside that community and soon everybody will see the benefits.

This has benefits for the entire community since part of the filtering is done at the homes(cells of cities) there is less waste water to be treated elsewhere so less cost for the city and in cases of disasters people will have clean water no matter what.

This is a process. Kids who grow up will probably be the first ones that will learn that that water is not dangerous and barriers will start to fall.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That might help, the root problem is an education issue after all. Pretty much all water comes into contact with sewage at some point before treatment anyway. At the very least, there’s plenty of runoff from farms that get into waterways, and who knows how much from wildlife. While it may not be a pleasant thought, it’s the reality of the world and wastewater engineers are among those who know this reality so it doesn’t bother them as much.

So you don’t really have to make people participate in treatment to understand this, they just need to be educated about how it all works. This is probably part of the general apathy (or even downright hostility in some quarters) to science and science education that the US is dealing with.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: water...-- Qualities of Water

Well, yes and no. A lot of coastal cities get their water from pressurized aqueducts, leading down from the local highlands or mountains. The reservoir which supplies an aqueduct may be a thousand or two thousand feet up, with little or no population or agriculture between it and the rain. Certain interior cities, on the other hand get their water from the Ohio or Mississippi rivers, or the Great Lakes, in which upstream cities have dumped not only sewage but industrial wastes. There is a difference. Coastal water, whatever it may once have contained, has effectively been distilled and doubly distilled. The water of certain coastal cities wins blind tasting competitions against expensive bottled mineral waters. That does not apply to the inland cities, however. These cities do not do anything remotely comparable to redistilling their water– they merely apply certain chemical treatments to it. You can taste the difference. In, say, Cincinnati water, you can taste the metallic tang of heavy industry. Cincinnati is downstream from Pittsburgh, downstream from the oil refineries at Ashland, Ky, downstream from the steel mills at Wheeling and Youngstown, and downstream from any number of abandoned and improperly reclaimed coal mines.

A toilet uses water basically as a source of power, and, given the way it is constructed, it can only use water at a “effective head” of about six inches or a foot. In a way, that is as if you insisted on running your house on three-volt electric current, all the way back to the generator. You can design a toilet which runs on vacuum from an electric-powered pump, and uses very little water. Of course, this may require a certain amount of rebuilding of the sewage plumbing as a whole. It was necessary to separate sanitary sewers from storm sewers, so that the wastewater treatment plants would not be overwhelmed by storms. If you wanted to save water beyond a certain point, it might be necessary to build additional classes of sewers and water supply lines.

The same principle applies for washing. You can combine water and compressed air in a single stream, to get much more effective washing action than that obtained by water alone. You may at some time or another have tried to fill a glass from the sink when there was an air bubble in the water line. In that case, you may remember that the glass was slammed out of your hand, and smashed into the bottom of the sink. Air is a compressible fluid, and and it can store a good deal of energy.

Of course, one has to understand the limits of application much of this material. In most populated parts of the country, we have run-off and flooding issues, not drought issues, except for crop irrigation at the peak of summer. The water discussion is framed by people living in either California or Arizona.

darryl says:

Re: Re: water...-- Qualities of Water

no your wrong, the first guy is totally right, water is water, ALL water has been sewage, no matter if it comes from the top of a moutain, or the bottom of the ocean.

You cannot ever say that water has never been sewage, or a part of flesh, or a part of a ancient animial.

Water that has be reclaimed from sewage is CLEANER that natural fresh water that you might find in a mountain stream.

How do you think those aquaducts got filled up in the first place ? by RAIN..

Yes, just like the oceans, and the rivers, and yes, recyled sewage is more clean (pure) that untreated river water.

But it’s all the same water, it’s ALL been sewage at some stage.
And ofcourse everyone know fish fuck in water, yes the water you drink !!!

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: water...-- Qualities of Water


Upland water supply reservoirs are usually protected by incorporating the lands around them into a wilderness park of one kind or other (typically a National Forest in the United States, though the State of New York has two huge state wilderness parks, the Adirondacks and the Catskills). In these upland areas of steep hillsides, machine cultivation never really took hold. The farmers mostly went bankrupt during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and were only too glad to be bought out by the state. If a large bear in Yosemite National Park should relieve himself in waters which ultimately flow to San Francisco’s water supply, that does not involve mercury, or cyanide, or dioxin. No such assurances can be made for heavy industry. Inspecting a map, I find that in Australia, you have water reservoirs in the mountains above both Sydney and Melbourne. You can probably tell me how the land above them is protected.

I suspect you have no practical experience with massive inland river systems such as the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri system in America, or the Volga in Russia. I do not wish to cast aspersions on the Fraser River. I am sure it is a very nice little river in its way. However, you will appreciate that it is not in the same class as the great American and Russian rivers. Such rivers accommodate barge tows the size of ships.

Here are some links relating to the condition of the Ohio River. People do fish in it, but many of them are of the “catch-and-release” school. It is not recommended to actually eat fish from the Ohio River more than once a month.

Dan Klepal, “Ohio’s waters more polluted Bacteria, heavy metals are main culprits,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday, January 23, 2004


darryl says:

Re: Re: Re:2 water...-- Qualities of Water

no we dont have big rivers here in Australia LOL..

And no matter if it on the top of a mountain, or the bottom of a lake, animals live in catchment area’s, and as they say “bear’s shit in the forest”, animals crap on the ground, it then rains, that rain (and sewage) ends up in the Dams, and those dams have fish in them that also crap in the water.

The water that comes out of the dams have to be treated before it can be used as drinking water.

Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri system
Mississippi River, the second longest river in the United States, and Jefferson River combine to form this system at a total length of 3,979 miles (6,352 km). (The Mississippi-Missouri River combined is 3,709 miles or 5,969 km).

The Murray-Darling is the longest river system in Australia.
The total length of the rivers in the Murray-Darling system is 6,695km

“I suspect you have no practical experience with massive inland river systems such as the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri system in America, or the Volga in Russia”

I might have a bit !!

If you looked up Australia on a map, you would see water is a very valuable item here, as it is in your country.

The water supply “snowy river scheme” was put there to generate electricity, it does not supply Sydney with drinking water.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: water...-- Qualities of Water

You are wrong, every single source of water today for cities pass through a water treatment facility before it goes to homes anywhere else, and at that water treatment facility they also treat sewer waste that is then added to any other source.

So no there is no difference, not to mention that many water treatment facilities will also add minerals, fluoride and chlorine to the water, maybe that is what you perceive as being different.

ps: Most water treatment facilities use a simple sand filter to clean the water coupled chemical purification to precipitate solubles and disinfect the water.

Jose_X (profile) says:


>> The other 40% are wastewater engineers.

That was funny, but it was an interesting article presenting a real problem and the comedy of techdirt was not helping any.

..so I will take it upon myself to distill some useful information from the sea of waste:

Distilling is probably something many people can get comfortable with.

When water evaporates, it turns into pure steam. If the temperature is just right, it leaves behind everything impure and only the water molecules (pure H2O) turn into a gas. An enclosure then diverts this gas into a clean waiting area, where it cools and once again becomes liquid, except that all the impurities stayed behind.

If that description is not enough, perhaps the audience will appreciate an “x-ray” or other setup to measure some property of samples of the distilled water and show on a chart how this measurement almost exactly matches that of pure water and completely disagrees with the values for all sorts of other impure water examples.

A video showing a tour of the processing site with animations of the molecules moving along and the testing done on the clean samples afterward should convince just about anyone.

If more, then have the processing site bottle that very water under a given brand that many locals might recognize at the store. If they come across the water that way first, they will realize they really have always had little choice but to trust the engineers.. and everything is gonna be alright.


Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Seriously

I haven’t studied distillation in detail, but the reality is likely more complicated. There are probabilities that some percentages of various impurities also leave with the steam (depending perhaps on the precision of the engineering and on thermodynamics or quantum mechanical variations possible). An advanced system would work to get to a very high likelihood of a high purity of water.

The point remains that no water out there is 100.000000000% pure. But then the air isn’t pure either and we open our mouths all the time and likely collect many molecules of many impurities that dissolve in our mouth, skin, etc.

Ewww yuck

.. but this brings up another idea that may help calm people. We can test the distilled water against the purity of the typical glass used to drink the water. Hopefully the water would come out sparkling.

Frost (profile) says:

We have no water shortage.

The planet has a given quantity of water. Very little of it actually goes anywhere. Every drop of it that we use and consume eventually gets cycled back into the ecosystem. Which is why the notion of “conserving water” is total BS – there is no more or less water than there ever was.

The problem is a lack of energy and the money system hampering our efficient use of resources – if we just scrapped the money system first, we could use the resources of the planet to build literally as many desalinization plants we needed. We could turn the Sahara into a garden, if we so wanted – sure, it would be quite the project, but nothing that is beyond us as a race. But obviously, as long as we do bone-headed things like calculating it on the basis of money, profit and the like it’s not going to happen.

That said of course, water pollution isn’t something we should accept; if we mix in crap into it, it should get taken right back out before we let it back out into the world.

darryl says:

Re: We have a FRESH WATER shortage

Sure, lots of water in the ocean, but it is very difficult and expensive and uses alot of energy to purify sea water.

Fresh water is RARE, the percentage of fresh water on the planet is NOT constant, here in Australia we get some droughts, and we are surrounded by LOTS of water.

But it requires far too much energy to purify sea water for crops or animals.

Yes, same amount of total water, but the ratio of sea water to fresh water can change a great deal.

Try it, trying living on sea water !!! see how you go.

Why do you think people die of thirst when on the ocean ?
You sound a bit like homer simpson “water water everywhere, so lets all have a drink”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We have no water shortage.

We are like bacteria growing in a petri dish eventually all the space will be used and we will naturally kill ourselves in our own waste, this reminds me of fermentation and beer.

That is why everybody is talking about water conservation, there is not enough for everybody, not when every year at a rate of 0.5 positive growth(that is 350 million people a year today with a population of 7 billion).

If people don’t stop breeding like rabbits, we all gonna die in our own crap, not to mention that nothing healthy for us can survive on sewer so food supplies will dwindle too, we are not like vegetation that uses water and have a symbiotic relation with their surroundings, our waste kills everything else that we depend on.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Water Savings in Agriculture.

Another point which occurred to me is that a very high portion of water usage is for agriculture, and that mostly works out to plants staying cool in hot weather by evaporating, or “sweating,” water.

LED Grow-lamps are becoming cheap and efficient enough that they can be used in place of natural sunlight, in a windowless greenhouse, in which growing beds are stacked many layers high. The practice which was traditionally used for growing cannabis has been extended to tomatoes. The building is of course temperature-controlled, and any water which is evaporated from the plants can be readily recovered by condensation against the walls, floor, etc. The article cites a four-fold reduction in water usage compared to that in Israel. Savings in California’s Imperial Valley would probably be about the same, or possibly better. The cited article does not refer to carbon dioxide, but carbon dioxide operates on plants like growth hormone on animals.


At any rate, the case for growing vegetables in California diminishes. Once you have a full controlled artificial environment, you may as well grow vegetables in Iowa, closer to most markets. The traditional rationale for farming fruits and vegetables in California was the absence of frost, and the consistent daily availability of sunshine.

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