It's easy to take water for granted. Turn on the tap, and you'll receive clean, life-giving water (with some very notable exceptions). But for a myriad of reasons, ranging from our changing climate to aging infrastructure to growing demands for water, all aspects of the water cycle -- how it is collected, cleaned, distributed (and repeat) -- are overdue for a technological makeover. For one thing, the workforce behind our waterworks is aging, at least within the public water utility sector, which is composed of an astounding 50,000 individual systems. "Lots of senior engineers are 30 years into their job and are reaching retirement," says Will Maize, a water industry analyst with market research firm Bluefield Research.
Singapore has called on the tech industry to pitch for S$30 million (US$22.68 million) worth of grants aimed at enhancing the country's water treatment processes and operations. Its national water agency PUB on Monday announced three Requests for Proposals (RFPs), inviting technology providers and researchers to develop applications that would help ensure water sustainability. It noted that water demand was projected to double by 2060, when non-domestic sector would account for 70 percent of overall demand. By then, energy-intensive sources such as its recycling system NEWater and desalinated water would generate up to 85 percent of Singapore's water needs, it added. Five NEWater plants currently supplied up to 40 percent of Singapore's current water needs, which would climb to 55 percent by 2060.
Envirobot - a robotic eel that can swim through contaminated water to find the source of pollution - is being developed at EPFL in Switzerland. A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Envirobot - a robotic eel that can swim through contaminated water to find the source of pollution - is being developed at EPFL in Switzerland.
MIT researchers are working on a similar approach, albeit their aim is to reduce leaks that result in roughly 20% of global water supplies being lost during transportation. The device is inserted into the water system, and then is carried along with the flow of water, measuring and logging as it goes. The team hopes to make the next step and commercialize their product, with strong initial interest from Saudi Arabia, where 33% of their water supply is currently lost through leakage. It managed to find a relatively small leak, albeit one of around one gallon per minute, that conventional detection techniques often miss.
Ecologists and hydrologists can test water's drinkability by boating through the blooms--though collecting samples off the side of a power boat is tricky and inconvenient. Those electronics and the machine's batteries--400 D cell batteries power the unit--understandably need some protection to sit at the bottom of the lake. It pulls lake water in, concentrating algae cells onto a filter. And once the cells are cracked open to reveal all the toxins, the ESPniagara dots samples into a four-by-five grid for quantification.
This year's large size is mainly due to heavy stream flows in May, Rabalais continued, which were about 34 percent above the long-term average and carried higher-than-average amounts of nutrients through Midwest waterways and into the Gulf. In its action plan for the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force recently extended the deadline until 2035 for achieving the goal of a 1,950-square-mile dead zone, which would be roughly the size of Delaware. Shrinking the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone down to that size, however, will require a much higher 59 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen runoff that flows down the Mississippi River, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The bottom line is that we will never reach the action plan's goal of 1,950 square miles until more serious actions are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system," says University of Michigan aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, lead author of the paper.
Satellites in space and a robot under Lake Erie's surface are part of a network of scientific tools trying to keep algae toxins out of drinking water supplies in the Great Lakes. That too can be expensive so researchers have developed an underwater lab that sits at the bottom of Lake Erie and both collects water and tests the levels of toxins before sending the results back remotely. That too can be expensive so researchers have developed an underwater lab that sits at the bottom of Lake Erie and both collects water and tests the levels of toxins before sending the results back remotely. Researchers are creating an early warning system using real-time data from satellites that in recent years have tracked algae bloom hotpots.
Researchers are creating an early warning system using real-time data from satellites that in recent years have tracked algae bloom hotpots such as Florida's Lake Okeechobee and the East Coast's Chesapeake Bay. The EPA in recent years has been testing using the satellite data to watch for algae in lakes in California, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The goal is to use the satellite data to watch for algae on 1,800 lakes across the nation and provide four different types of water quality measurements on close to 170,000 lakes. "We call it the'lab in a can,'" said Tim Davis, a Great Lakes researcher with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and other institutions have created a modular robotic eel that can swim through contaminated water to pinpoint sources of pollution. Each module is equipped with a different type of sensor, including biological ones, like fish cells, live crustaceans and modified bacteria. Some of the modules the researchers made have physical and chemical sensors that can test for water conductivity and temperature. The researchers have only tested the physical and chemical sensors in the field thus far, since the biological ones are harder to deploy.
Monterrey itself has a strong incentive to take part in this study, since it loses an estimated 40 percent of its water supply to leaks every year, costing the city about $80 million in lost revenue. That's why that desert nation's King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals has sponsored and collaborated on much of the MIT team's work, including successful field tests there earlier this year that resulted in some further design improvements to the system, Youcef-Toumi says. Currently there is not an effective tool to locate leaks in those plastic pipes, and MIT PipeGuard's robot is the disruptive change we have been looking for." The MIT system was actually first developed to detect gas leaks, and later adapted for water pipes.