You can follow the alluring Ellicott Creek all the way to Niagara River. What isn’t so alluring about Ellicott Creek is the dangerous turbidity of the water. It is used in our labs at SUNY UB frequently as a contaminated water source. Although not nearly as polluted as Onondaga Lake, Ellicott Creek faces frequent sewage overflow due to heavy rain and snow in the Buffalo area, which mixes groundwater with sewage from old and cracked pipes underground.
I grew up running around the picturesque Amherst State Park as well as the little picnic area near Glen Falls. There is a cute little diner called the Red Mill, which used to harvest the hydraulic power for turning a mill but has since lost its popularity. The water may not be fully recovered from constant bad luck, nevertheless, it won’t stop the ducks or the turkey vultures or the couples taking wedding pictures. It’s important to conserve wildlife no matter the condition.
Scientists are always coming up with complicated solutions to small problems. So what if we simplified the water problem by using something so basic the answer has been right under our noses the whole time? The answer I’m talking about is The Lifestraw. Invented and produced in 2005, field tested in 2009, and funded and transported throughout developing countries, is a simple straw that looks like a small tube with a filter inside. It has a log 6 kill factor- in other words, it kills around 99.9999% of bacteria in contaminated water. Although that number is extremely high, solutions for contaminated water must be in the high 90’s range, otherwise just a few bacteria can replicate and once again create unsafe water.
The personal lifestraw is about 20$ plus shipping. It has a lot of pros, but it also has a few cons, like any other product on the market. Chemicals, viruses, and saltwater won’t be removed with this filtering straw. However, you are way better off with one than without one. It wipes out most bacterium that cause diarrheal illnesses as well as parasites. It’s also easy to tote around. You can even wear it as a necklace.
Reviewer Nathalie Rothschild bashed the invention on an online European magazine site. The writer opposed the widespread use of the lifestraw by saying that it is degrading, you can’t bring the water with you, it’s too small, it’s too expensive, it doesn’t solve the water crisis, etc. She went on to insult the company that developed this, as well as charities and hard working engineers who went to great lengths to create and distribute the product. Looking through the comments, I found a popular response that explained in just a short paragraph what water-related technologies are all about.
“Seriously flawed logic here. So because tap water cannot be brought to everyone in Africa RIGHT NOW we should not address the need for clean drinking water with any stop gap solutions? Pretty sure this product has saved lives in the field while this author (Rothschild) would have them die of thirst waiting for their Brita filtered sink to be installed. Man, I haven’t encountered this much stupidity in a while on the Internet. And the Internet is big and stupid.”
While large water issues globally can’t be solved immediately, it’s worth the lives saved to come up with solid temporary solutions and pray that the government eventually takes over and starts to help people. You can’t save the world- but you can start by saving someone.
Contaminated water isn’t the only difficulty with sustaining life in developing countries. In parts of the world with harsh climates, it is often difficult to carry water long distances from wells to dry lands. The men are usually out in the fields and women are left to collect the water and have to bring along the children, which is not only dangerous but can take up most of their day with continuous trips to and from the sites. Water is exceptionally heavy and in countries where women carry heavy pots on their heads, the weight can damage the skull. One answer to this issue is the Hippo Roller. It’s crazy to think that just turning a barrel on its side can make a huge difference. This way, women can push the water, which uses more force from them walking forwards, to push more water, easier, over rough terrain. Hippo rollers are at least 125$ but they are paid for with donations and have caused a surprising impact on developing societies.
Appearing as recently as the summer of 2014 is a new smart water sprinkler system designed by a young Princeton graduate. He studied evolutionary biology across the world because of his interest in sustainable farming, which lead to this invention. This solar-powered sensor and water valve conserves water depending on the density of the soil and need for water, but it also goes past that to determine when gardeners will need to protect their garden from frost or other things. The sensor goes into the ground and sends alerts to the gardener’s phone about what is going on in the garden, and can even determine what plants will thrive best in the soil. The pre-order is still going on for Edyn for a total of 160$ for the whole system. Overall, I think this is a great way to save water, and gardeners will also have more free time with the notifications. However, a more stone-age solution is to reduce the use of sprinkler systems and just stick your finger in to see if the soil is wet or dry a few inches under! Still, you can’t determine what crops will grow best with just your finger. So, good job creator Jason Aramburu!
There’s something that interests me more than water filtration itself. It’s along the same lines, though: creating water from thin air. In countries like Ethiopia, the significant temperature change from day to night allows the air to become very dense. The newly crafted Warka Water tower takes advantage of that occurrence and collects condensed water droplets, or dew, with a large net, and turns it into a source of clean water. Now, rain water isn’t the cleanest water, but this solution to a never ending water problem could be a start to producing cheap water in developing countries. Nevertheless, people still doubt the prototype. They wonder if it produces as many liters of water as the inventors say it does, if the water droplets would quickly evaporate, and they even question the “easy to make” quality that people claim the Warka Water tower possesses. After looking into some of these points myself, I found numerous different claims to the amount of water it can produce. I also discovered that the images of Warka in use were photo shopped, and that it is an expensive method. However, the designers of the tower partnered with Autodesk Inventor (my favorite AutoCAD program), and were supported by Wired (the coolest technology magazine out there). I hope I get to research this for myself in the future. As for all my readers- I hope that you inquire about this yourselves to find out what parts of it are really true and what parts are hopes more than realities. Always check your facts!