Stories tagged drinking water

Nov
18
2008

Woman contemplates a future of urine drinking: As she sips her apple juice.
Woman contemplates a future of urine drinking: As she sips her apple juice.Courtesy vcalzone
Hey, hey, don’t get too excited, Buzzketeers. We’ve been drinking our own pee for a long time. Way back in the past, we drank it for ceremonial purposes. And back in the present we drank it all the time! We drank it to stay alive, we drank it to be on TV (we loved TV back then, didn’t we?), and sometimes we drank it just because we were into that sort of thing.

But here in the future, we’ve really perfected drinking pee. And not just in the Kevin Costner/Waterworld way—that method requires gravity and science fiction, and we’ve figured out how to do it without gravity, with science.

The obvious application here is astronauts. As intriguing as zero gravity and space travel might sound initially, the fact remains that astronauts are trapped in a relatively tiny capsule for great lengths of time with little to occupy their time beyond telling dirty jokes and drinking their own urine. Unfortunately, there are only so many dirty jokes (although mixing and matching punch lines can extend things), and, as wikipedia’s entry on urophagia reminds us, you can only drink your own wiz so many times before problems arise. (Although, as I understand it, the problem with repeatedly drinking pee isn’t that you end up drinking super-pee, but that you get dehydrated, and your body has to reabsorb the toxins from the urine.)

With this new development in urophage tech, however, it looks like astronauts will be able to while away mission hours drinking pee to their hearts’ content.

Now, it should at least be mentioned that the aim of technology here is to turn the pee into something called “water,” and to then drink it. But the principle remains the same. Existing urine-recycling systems rely on gravity, but, again, that’s not an option for astronauts. The new system, soon to be installed on the International Space Station, will take urine, along with water from hand washing, tooth brushing, showering, and space suit sweat, and extract free gas and solid materials from the fluid, before removing remaining contaminants with “a high-temperature chemical reaction.” The result, according to one astronaut, can be “purer than what you drink here on Earth.”

That, ma’am, sounds like a challenge.

Potential efforts to defeat the system through dietary or medical methods aside, the water reclamation process makes a lot of sense. Previously, urine was vented into space, and more water needed to be delivered to the space station. This process should cut about 15,000 pounds from the amount of water and consumables that need to be brought to the station each year, and with the cost of shipping each pint of fresh water into space hovering around $10,000, the savings are nothing to sneeze at. (Considering that “a pint’s a pound the world around,” the system should save something like $150,000,000 a year, if the cost is actually as simple as those figures.)

And no doubt it’ll keep the astronauts happy.

Oct
15
2008

All over the world there are problems with safe drinking water. From food, health, learning, manufacturing...every aspect of life depends on water. During time I spent in 3rd world nations. What do you think the best way is to solve problem? Why do people still suffer from lack of water when the technology exisits to solve this problem? Is water a right or a priveledge?

Oct
05
2007

Mussel control: A swarm of zebra mussels have attached themselves to this larger regular mussel. The invasive species has been spreading across the U.S. and have now shown up in three Ramsey County lakes, part of many east-metro area drinking water supplies. But their pressence doesn't impact the drinkability of the water. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Mussel control: A swarm of zebra mussels have attached themselves to this larger regular mussel. The invasive species has been spreading across the U.S. and have now shown up in three Ramsey County lakes, part of many east-metro area drinking water supplies. But their pressence doesn't impact the drinkability of the water. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
I would have expected this from television news, but this was actually a breaking news story on the Star Tribune website today: zebra mussels have been found in three local lakes that provide water to municipal drinking water systems to east metro cities. A little further into the piece, it does remind us that zebra mussels do not affect the quality of drinking water. The only significant public health issue, I guess, is that the mussels can congregate around and clog up intake pipes for the water systems.

Here’s some other breaking news, from me, about our water supplies: geese poop in them, huge carp (and assorted other fish) die in them, and lots of other natural but nasty things occur there as well. That’s why we have water treatment plants and add chemicals that help purify our water.

What’s distressing is that the spread of zebra mussels is now jumping from the Mississippi River into other local bodies of water where they have no natural predators to control their numbers. And the article barely addresses that issue.