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Saving The Planet One Flush At A Time, When we think about making our homes more environmentally friendly, we usually think about reducing our energy usage – better insulation and draft proofing, more efficient appliances, and modern heating and air conditioning. What often escapes our attention is water – how much we use, and how much dirty water gets poured down the drain.
You need to think of water as a precious resource. Even if it is relatively abundant where you live, when you use excessive amounts of water, you still put additional strain on the water supply. Then, there is the energy needed to pump water from its source, treat it, and then forward it on to your home.
Once you have used the water, the whole process runs in reverse, with the water being brought back to sewage treatment plants – again using energy and generating further greenhouse gases.
Saving The Planet One Flush At A Time
Fortunately, advances in plumbing technology have made it possible to reduce the amount of water that you use. Low-flow toilets are a case in point – these typically use about 1.6 gallons per flush, as opposed to over twice that with a conventional toilet. These are now mandatory in new installations.
Saving The Planet One Flush At A Time
In fact, there are laws in Los Angeles and other major cities making it illegal for home-sellers to have anything but a low-flow toilet installed. You can bet that most Los Angeles and surrounding area plumbers are up to their necks with low-flow installations. However, there’s a good chance you may still have an old toilet that needs replacing.
If you do, you can save even more water by putting in a dual-flush model that gives you two buttons – one for a standard 1.6 gallon flush, and another that only uses 1.1 gallons when full force isn’t required. If you think about how many times your toilet gets flushed in a day, the water savings soon mount up.
Aside from your toilet, you need to address the other things that drive up your water usage. One of these is when you take a shower in the morning. Actually, assuming you spend five minutes in the shower, you’re likely to use about 25 gallons of water if your shower is old.
That’s like flushing a low-flow toilet 15 times. That’s astounding if you think about it. The solution is to have a plumber install low-flow showerheads for you. For example, if you live in the Houston area, look up a reputable Houston plumbing company, get them to do the job, and also get them to provide you with a set of recommendations on other ways you can reduce your water usage.
If you’re really enthusiastic about conserving water, you may want to consider a greywater recycling system. Greywater is the water left over from baths, showers and hand basins and, while you certainly can’t drink it, it can be used to flush toilets and water the garden.
The water needs to be treated still, or it will start to go off quickly because it contains organic matter. A combination of filtering and digestion with bacteria is all that is needed, which can be done easily in your home. However, you will need to get a recycling tank installed and have your plumbing rerouted to take greywater to the tank.
Green Solutions to Pool Care
If you own an outdoor swimming pool, you need to keep it clean, for the sake of your environment as well as of yourself (swimming pools that are not properly taken care of gather germs which can be deadly to anyone who swims in them). It can also save you a great deal of money on energy. This article will give you some valuable tips for more eco-friendly pool care.
Install a chlorine-generating system
For over fifty years now, chlorine has been an essential ingredient in swimming pools, being put into the water to kill off harmful bacteria. (Incidentally, the chlorine itself does not have this effect; that is accomplished by the oxygen that is released as a result of chemical reactions with the water.) A chlorine- (or salt-) generating system, consisting of high-energy filters and pumps, can conserve the water, save energy use by as much as 90 percent, reduce the amount of time and money spent on maintaining the pool (utility costs, for instance, can be reduced by $1,000) and cut down the noise from the machines. Chlorine- and salt-generating systems can even making the water in your pool feel like you are in your bathtub!
Automatic covers and controls
During the off-season months, a cover is put on the pool to protect it from cold weather, decaying autumn leaves and other harmful debris. You can save energy by putting in an automatic cover that can be operated with a remote control. Such a cover can also help reduce the amount of maintenance work that needs to be done. It also cuts down on the usage of the heater, thus enabling it to last longer before being replaced.
Other automatic controls can also be installed in your pool. A low NOx emission pool heater gives off a minimum amount of nitrogen oxide, which is a major component in acid rain and smog. All the equipment operations of the pool can be synchronized through a system of automatic controls that ensure that it runs properly. They can even prolong the swimming season for you.
The lighting for your swimming pool also needs to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. The lights that best fit that criteria are LED lights, which use the least energy — less than a quarter of that used by halogen and incandescent light bulbs. They thus last much longer — up to 30,000 hours, the equivalent of 7,500 days or 20½ years! That is how long you can wait before you have to replace the bulb.
Other technology and equipment that can save energy
Solar water heating
Installing solar panels to heat the pool can reduce your energy consumption by about 70 percent. No one likes to swim in a cold pool, so a good heating system is very important to have. Solar energy is perfectly clean and does not cost anything, and besides it can make your swimming season twice as long!
Cleaning the pool
Debris and chemicals from the outside are constantly entering the swimming pool. At one time, the only way of cleaning a dirty swimming pool was to drain it — and that can be dangerous, as a drained pool becomes vulnerable to other issues, such as “popping up” from the ground, cracked or blistered shells or loose tiles. Fortunately, it is not the only available option today — trained experts can filter out dirt and chemicals that can leave the water as clean as it was when you first installed the pool.
Have your pool professionally maintained and cared for
Swimming pools must always be meticulously cared for if they are to remain safe for swimming in. There are those businesses whose personnel are specially trained in such maintenance — where most of the tips given above are taken from. The people who work for Shoreline Pools have had years of technical training and you can choose from several pool care plans. And there is no need to store any harmful chemicals in your house.
Urban Water Woes Growing Faster than Population
In Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare (population 3,000,000), a man relieves himself in the dirt next to his tin shack, holding his nose to ward off the stench of a nearby overflowing latrine. In Ramallah (population 300,000) in the occupied Palestinian territory a 14-year-old girl wakes with menstrual cramps – and skips class because her school lacks a washroom where she can clean herself in private. In Bangladesh’s mega-capital (population 12 million), a monsoon-season flash flood leaves thousands with cholera.
Different continents, same problem: City populations continue to grow above ground while water resources shrink underfoot, leaving emptying aquifers to sate growing needs, and compounding existing problems with wastewater collection.
With water use growing at more than twice the rate of overall population increase (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization), how can authorities ensure that every urban dweller gets 20-50 litres of clean water daily for drinking, cooking and cleaning? How can governments create sanitation systems that do not sicken city dwellers?
Some 3.3 billion people (more than half of the world’s population) live in urban areas, a figure which is expected to rise to five billion by 2030. Ninety-five percent of this growth is taking place in countries least able to afford the cost of expansion.
In East Asia alone – in one of the most disaster-stricken areas worldwide – the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates the number of people living in urban flood plains may reach 67 million by 2060.
A Megacity Task Force of the Germany-based International Geographic Union has called the world’s 40 or so megacities (concentrations of at least 10 million people) “major global risk areas” prone to natural disaster and supply crises.
“The dimensions of these urban disaster problems are huge,” said Robert Piper, UN resident coordinator in Nepal, whose capital, Kathmandu, is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most earthquake-prone cities. “And doing something about it on the scale necessary is expensive.”
Cities of less than one million residents, such as Ramallah, are now growing at a faster rate than larger urban areas, noted Graham Alabaster, manager of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), in Geneva. Like megacities, he said, smaller cities share the same pressing problems: infrastructure too weak to handle ever-more densely packed populations, and understaffing so severe it can put water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH, in aid industry lingo) under the management of less than half as many administrators as is necessary.
Climate change has not made things any easier. World temperatures will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, predict a joint team of researchers from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact and the NGO, also in Germany, Climate Analytics.
“In developing countries, the already-stressed, existing systems were built without climatic change in mind,” said Robert Bos, the WASH coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.
Water may be delivered in decades-old leaking iron pipes instead of flexible PVC ones that expand and contract in response to temperature fluctuations. Sewage systems may be too small to remove waste, which can ferment and release toxic methane gas created when temperatures reach record highs.
To brace against increasingly volatile weather, cities in arid regions (such as Johannesburg and Dakar) must stockpile water for annual droughts, while those in flood-prone areas (such as Shanghai and Calcutta) must stockpile medicines and recruit additional health staff to prevent and treat water-borne diseases.
The countries at the highest risk of weather-related disasters worldwide, identified in a November 2012 report, are Thailand followed by Cambodia, Pakistan, El Salvador and the Philippines.
As of March 2012, three years ahead of schedule, the world achieved one of its Millennium Development Goals: providing safe drinking water to half of the 2.6 million people who struggled without it in 2000.
Even so, 2.5 billion people in the developing world lack adequate sanitation and 780 million of them lack clean water.
In addition to large-scale efforts organized by national governments, here are five experiments WASH experts are testing to manage water sources in an urbanizing – and increasingly warmer – world.
Latrine pits into which sewage systems drain are the most common way to collect waste in slums in the developing world. But cleaning these pits, which are often uncovered, can pose persistent challenges. Shacks may be so densely packed that vacuum tankers cannot be deployed.
Individual workers may have to clamber into pits and manually clean them, putting themselves – and their families – at risk of disease. Absentee landlords may have little interest in dealing with sewage pits, leaving them neglected to the point where they overflow.
With a US$100,000 grant from the US-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers in Belo Horizonte (the third-largest city in Brazil) are creating biodegradable building blocks that replace conventional cement or brick and allow latrine pits to decompose naturally once they are filled.
Another Gates grant of $4.8 million to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is funding the design of latrine pits that have an active “bio-filter” of tiger worms and other organisms to break down waste. This technology creates environmentally-friendly sewage that poses few human health risks.
UPGRADING SCHOOL SANITATION
Where school toilets and latrines do exist (they are available in only an estimated 37 percent of countries where the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is active), long queues snake around school buildings during breaks and after class. “We need to upgrade sanitary facilities for all children, but especially for menstruating girls so they can continue to attend school and meet their needs for privacy, dignity and cleanliness,” said Ania Grobicki, executive secretary of the Stockholm-based Global Water Partnership.
In China, UNICEF and its partners built school hand-washing stations. In Malawi and Kenya, they introduced a new design of urinals for girls. And in Bangladesh and India, they have launched “menstrual hygiene projects” so girls can continue their studies without interruption.
PRE-IDENTIFIED WASTE DISPOSAL SITES
When natural disasters strike, they can generate millions of tons of solid and liquid waste that threaten public health and hinder reconstruction. The earthquake that hit Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince in January 2010 – killing more than 220,000 people, leaving more than 350,000 displaced almost three years later and causing the capital’s already-shaky municipal waste collection system to collapse – highlighted the need to select waste-disposal sites pre-disaster.
Garbage towered along remaining roadsides; construction materials were piled up in ravines, drains and other open spaces. Before aid agencies and the government focused on hazardous waste disposal, surgeons tossed body parts into fetid, decaying piles. After the disaster, the Haitian government assigned one municipal landfill to dispose of medical waste. In 2011, the UN released disaster-waste guidelines that outlined dangers of different waste types.
TURNING WASTE INTO WATER
In some urban areas in the developing world, more water is lost through leakage and other infrastructure problems than is delivered. “But wastewater collection, recycling, and retreatment can multiply supplies,” said Grobicki from Global Water Partnership.
Cities that are already making wastewater potable include Singapore (where 3 percent of drinking water is recycled) and Perth, Australia (where officials hope 10 percent will soon be so). This microfiltration and chemical treatment technology has also been used in Windhoek, Namibia, (population 300,000) which has been recycling wastewater since 1968, and is holding a meeting in 2013 to evaluate its experience.
LOW-COST, HIGH-IMPACT SOLUTIONS
WASH systems do not have to be pricey to be effective, as proven by the shallow, gravity-driven sewers that have long served the `favela’ slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city of some six million people.
“Increasingly, municipal authorities are establishing `low-income customer service units’ or LICSUs,” said Timeyin Uwejamomere with the London-based NGO WaterAid. “One such programme recently brought sanitation to 150,000 people and clean water to 400,000 in Lilongwe, Malawi.”
At King’s College London, researchers are examining how to deliver water with segmented flexible rubber hoses. In India, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Uganda, WaterCredit, a programme of the US-based Water.Org, helps households buy drinking water and toilets through micro-financing.