Stories tagged water

Researchers were able to take a single teaspoon of water from a city's sewage plant, and test it to see what drugs, legal and illegal, people were using. The tests cannot identify individual people -- it merely measures the level of certain drugs in the city's waste water.

Jul
15
2007

Danny told me so.

Bottled water: Photo by Dannyman
Bottled water: Photo by Dannyman
I saw this photo on dannyman's website.. He was illustrating that he refills his collection of bottles with tap water and that he thought bottling water in New Zealand and transporting it to North America was immoral. This quote also made me think.

I read that San Francisco recently enacted a ban on spending any further money for bottled water by city departments–currently the city spends $500,000/year on bottled water.

Drink tap water and save $1400/yr.

If you drink 8 glasses of water per day your cost per year is 49 cents (in New York). Buying that water in bottles could cost you $1400. Americans spent more than $10 billion on bottled water last year. The cost to the environment needs to be addressed, too. Transporting a gallon of water from France to Chicago burns about a cup of petroleum. Four out of five of the 30 billion throwaway bottles of water per year end up in landfills.

We switched to tap water.

I noticed that my wife recently switched to drinking tap water cooled in our refrigerator. She still kept buying cans of carbonated water for me, though. Last month I made the switch, too. What about you?

Read more:
New York Times
ABC News

Jun
01
2007

Gray garden: A growing trend in the western U.S. is the use of gray water, water that comes from the drains of shower, bath tubs and washing machines, to go through an outdoor filtering process and then be used to water plants. Some see the idea as too big of a health
Gray garden: A growing trend in the western U.S. is the use of gray water, water that comes from the drains of shower, bath tubs and washing machines, to go through an outdoor filtering process and then be used to water plants. Some see the idea as too big of a health
As more and more people become environmentally conscious, to what extremes should we as a society let them go to help protect the environment?

That’s a pressing question these days in some western states where water is scarce and some people are trying to find creative ways to reduce their water consumption.

Meet gray water, that water that comes from the drains of bath tubs, showers and washing machines. It’s not full of hazardous waste products, but is not usable for drinking or cooking. How about flushing your toilets or water lawns with gray water?

A growing “gray water brigade” is finding creative home plumbing solutions to re-route gray water into other uses in their homes. Sometimes the modifications are quite simple to do, costing just a few hundred dollars.

But they rarely meet the building codes of the cities the gray water. Systems that have been put into use by contractors meeting local construction guidelines can cost as much as $7,000. In a recent story in the New York Times, a plumbing contractor admitted that he now encourages people interested in recycling grey water to find their own home remedies rather than fork out big bucks for a professional solution.

The same story gave a quick description of one such homemade system. A pipe running from the house deposits shower and sink water into an elevated bathtub in the yard that is filled with gravel and reeds. The roots of the plants begin filtering and absorbing contaminants. The water then flows into a lower tub, also containing a reed bed, before flowing into a still-lower tub of floating water hyacinths and small fish. The whole system cost about $100 and the final product is used to water flower beds at a California home. Chemical tests of the filtered done by the homeowner show a slightly high level of phosphorus, but nothing the plants can handle.

But other water experts share their concerns with gray water, including the risks of open pools of water becoming a mosquito breeding ground, the possible crossing of gray water lines with other plumbing that could contaminate clean water, or using gray water to irrigate plants that might be eaten raw.

Most states now have regulations about gray water usage. But proponents of gray water say those rules make the idea cost prohibitive.

So what should be done on the gray water front? Is it okay for people to play with gray water at their own risk? Are the health risks too great for this kind of experimentation? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Mars and Venus may be our closest planetary neighbors, but astronomers have now identified a distant planet that might have potential to support life. Don't pack your bags just yet though—planet 581 c is 120 trillion miles away, and scientists are still determining if it has an atmosphere.

Minnesota Pollution Control scientists were surprised recently to find elevated levels of 3M perfluorinated chemicals in Lake Calhoun. The MPCA officials are trying to warn people who might regularly fish in the lake, specifically targeting the Hmong, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian communities.

Mar
08
2007

Rural village in Bangladesh: How will nanotechnology benefit them in the coming years?  Courtesy adrenalin.
Rural village in Bangladesh: How will nanotechnology benefit them in the coming years? Courtesy adrenalin.
You may have heard about nanotechnology enhanced pants that keep that wine stay away or even a nanotech tennis racket. But if nanotechnology is truly set to revolutionize the world we live in what benefits can the poorest people of the world expect to see?

According to a 2005 study these are the areas we should focus on first:

  1. Energy storage, production and conversion
  2. Agricultural productivity enhancement
  3. Water treatment and remediation
  4. Disease diagnosis and screening
  5. Drug delivery systems
  6. Food processing and storage
  7. Air pollution and remediation
  8. Construction
  9. Health monitoring
  10. Vector and pest detection and control

The study was developed by the Canadian Program on Genomics and Global Health at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics lead by Dr. Peter Singer. Read the full report

Not surprisingly energy tops the list. According to Singer easy access to cheap energy will lead to a great deal of economic growth in the developing world. Here at the Buzz we have covered several nanotechnology energy advances that might come to market in the future. super cheap solar cells, nano ultracapacitors from MIT, nano products now.

Look for more info on some exhibits we will be rolling out soon on nanotech's impact on energy and the environment.

Jan
04
2007

Martian blueberries: Mars Berry Bowl. Lighter area shows where Opportunity sampled matrix. Photo courtesy: Jpl/NASA/Cornell University
Martian blueberries: Mars Berry Bowl. Lighter area shows where Opportunity sampled matrix. Photo courtesy: Jpl/NASA/Cornell University
Those ubiquitous Martian blueberries are in the news again. NASA's Mars rover, Opportunity, has found increasing numbers of them as it approaches the rim of Victoria Crater.

The BB-sized spherules are thought to be composed of hematite, iron oxide that leaches out of the soil as ground water rises up through it. Three years ago, when Opportunity first landed on Mars, millions of the tiny concretions were seen covering the Martian surface around its landing site at Eagle crater. A depression containing a concentration of the berries allowed Opportunity’s Mössbauer spectrometer (an instrument designed to identify iron-bearing minerals) to analyze the spheres’ composition. The test results displayed typical outcrop characteristics, but showed intense hematite signature.

Scientists think the concretions are similar to those found on Earth in the Utah desert, and elsewhere. Commonly called “Moqui Marbles”, these larger concretions litter the ground in many areas in the Utah desert, and are cherished among New-Age devotees for their supposed metaphysical powers.

Earth concretions at Como Bluff, Wyoming: Upper photo shows concretions weathering out of matrix. Lower photo shows individual concretions. Photo by Mark Ryan.
Earth concretions at Como Bluff, Wyoming: Upper photo shows concretions weathering out of matrix. Lower photo shows individual concretions. Photo by Mark Ryan.
I found similar concretions at Como Bluff in Wyoming last fall. Como is an historic dinosaur bone yard carved out of an anticline just north of Laramie. The well-known Morrison Formation , from which the dinosaur fossils weather out, is composed of river and floodplain deposits laid down during the Late Jurassic Period. The Morrison outcrops in a number of western states.

Concretions on Earth form when ground water rises up through strata of compacted soil, seeping into joints and between layers, where minerals in the water precipitate out slowly over long periods of time. Scientists believe the same process has taken place on Mars.

As Opportunity moved across Meridiani Planum and upwards toward the rim of Victoria, the number and size of blueberries has decreased. But as the rover’s neared Victoria’s rim, the trend has reversed.

The terrain there was "full of great big juicy blueberries again," said rover chief scientist Steven Squyres last month at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. "That was a surprise to us."

The impact that created Victoria Crater smashed deep below the surface and into the blueberry layer, throwing thousands of the concretions around the crater’s rim.

The concretions add to the growing evidence of water on the Red Planet. During it’s trek toward Victoria, Opportunity spotted ripple marks in Endurance crater leading scientists to speculate that water, which is mostly present underground, sometimes flows out on the surface. Recent gully activity was also noticed just a few weeks ago in photos taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor.

Just how deep the water level is won't be known until Opportunity descends into the Victoria Crater in a few months, and studies the outcrops there.

"As we go down, we'll cross a bathtub ring," marking the highest level the water reached, Squyres said.

Dec
08
2006

One of the greatest threats to public health these days, especially in developing countries, is poor water quality. Everyone needs water to live, right? But if that water isn’t clean, it can lead to a ton of health problems. Some estimates figure that 6,000 people die each day due to health complications from drinking poor water.

How it works: A Rotary Club member demonstrates the simple way a LifeStraw works. Put it in your mouth and simply suck up safe drinking water. The device can help prevent up to 6,000 deaths a day due to poor quality drinking water.
How it works: A Rotary Club member demonstrates the simple way a LifeStraw works. Put it in your mouth and simply suck up safe drinking water. The device can help prevent up to 6,000 deaths a day due to poor quality drinking water.

Solving big problems usually takes big solutions. But a Swiss weaving company have developed an easy, low-cost way to get around the problems of drinking impure water. It’s developed a device called LifeStraw.

It’s a portable water purifying system. People can wear a LifeStraw around their neck and use it to safely slurp up surface water from just about any natural location. The ten-inch-long tube contains a series of fabric filters inside. Those filters can screen out nearly all micro organisms that carry water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and choler. The filters are fine enough to screen out particles that are up to 15 micorns small.

The makers of LifeStraw say their product can last for about a year until it needs to be replaced, processing about 700 liters of water in its life time. That averages out to about two liters a day, the size of a large soda pop bottle.

There is some minimal maintenance required with a LifeStraw. Users occasionally need to blow out their last gulp of water plus some air through the straw to clean out the filters and any silt or mud that may get drawn into the straw.

What’s really remarkable about this is the price tag for LifeStraw. Each device costs $3. But you’re not going to find them on the shelves of Wal-Mart, Target or a grocery store.

LifeStraw’s parent company, Vestergaard Frandsen sells LifeStraws in bulk quantities to charitable groups who then get them to needy areas of the world through service projects. Rotary Clubs in Great Britain are among the biggest participants in the LifeStraw distribution effort.

More information on how to get involved in distributing LifeStraws is available at the organization’s website: www.lifestraw.com

Dec
08
2006

Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)
Mars erosion: Recent photos of Mars' surface show evidence of recent runoff of water on the Red Planet's surface (Photo from NASA)

There’s growing photo evidence that water occasionally flows on the surface of Mars.

Photos from a NASA Mars orbiter taken over the span of several years show that erosion patterns have changed on portions of the Red Planet. Scientists have known that ice exists on Mars for quite a while, but these latest photographs help point to signs that liquid water occasionally can be found on the planet as well.

That’s especially important in the search for any forms of life on the planet. While past research has concluded that life was possible on the planet’s long past when it was warmer, these new photos help boost the odds that liquid water may exist somewhere on the planet today to help feed life forms.

Satellite photos have long shown gullies on the surface of Mars where water was believed to have flowed millions of years ago. Comparing photos of portions of Mars first photographed in 1999 and 2000 and then reshot in 2004 and 2005, researchers have found gullies in two spots that are part of the second series of photos, but not the first.

“Water seems to have flowed on the surface of today’s Mars,” says Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “The big question is how does this happen, and does it point to a habitat for life.”

More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)
More Mars water: Here's a second image of another water runoff gully on Mars. (Photo from NASA)

There are no visible channels or pools of water on Mars. That leads researchers to think that there may be liquid water in underground aquifiers, which occasionally release water to Mars’ surface. Underground temperatures of Mars might be warm enough to keep water in its liquid state.

The new gullies display evidence of water flow similar to what we see on Earth. They are about one-quarter of a mile long and have delta-shaped patterns at their ends, much like what we find at the end of our rivers and streams. Also, flow patterns in the areas around obstacles in the paths of the gullies show similar patterns like those we see here on earth of mud and sediment washing around the obstacle.

By the way, if you want to see more about the surface of Mars, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s 3-D cinema currently is showing the film “Mars,” which has footage taken from the Mars rovers currently scurrying around the planet. Maybe you’ll be able to see some signs of water in the background.

Astronomers at Cornell have determined that craters on the moon, once thought to hold ice, actually just have highly reflective dirt. This is a set back for space exploration plans, which had hoped to use the ice as a source of water and/or hydrogen for a future moon base.