Amazing People Doing Amazing Things

Dr. Ashok Gadgil  – UV Waterworks

This is the first in a series of profiles about people who are making a change in the world of water conservation and sanitation, and why not start with someone who has fostered big change throughout the world, Dr. Ashok Gadgil. Dr. Gadgil started his education with theoretical physics, getting a M.Sc. froIIT, Kanpur in India where he was born. He soon found that he wanted to learn a science that he could use to have a positive impact on the world, and therefore turned to applied physics, gaining a B.Sc. from Bombay University, as well as a Ph.D from theUniversity ofCalifornia,Berkeley.  After graduating he began working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researching solar energy applications, energy efficiency, and indoor air pollution.  Having grown up inIndia he soon returned there to see what help he could lend to their problems, staying there until 1988.

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What the Frack?

Fracking is the process of hydraulically injecting a mixture of fluids into naturally forming veins or dikes in rock in order to release petroleum, natural gas, or coal seam gas.  The mixture injected is typically a slurry of water, proppants (including silica sand, resin-coated sand, and man-made ceramics), and chemical additives. Additionally, gels, foams, and compressed gases, including nitrogencarbon dioxide and air can be injected.   Further, sometimes sand containing naturally radioactive materials are used to measure the fracture trace.  There are also other chemicals that are used at times during the process in order to reduce the viscosity of the fluid so that the gas can flow to the surface more freely.  Needless to say, they pump a lot of chemicals into the ground.  Once all of these chemicals are injected into the ground and the petroleum, gas, etc is collected the well is flushed with water (sometimes mixed with even more chemicals).

There are a number of issues with the practice of fracking.  One is that 1-8 million gallons of water are used to frack a well, and a well can be fracked several times.  Some of that water is recovered (sometimes), but whatever water (and chemicals) are not recovered stay in the ground and can work its way into the groundwater.  Is that a bad thing?  Yes, but organizations like the EPA have had a lot of difficulty proving this because of pressure from the government and industry which has led to negative findings being removed from reports.

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World Toilet Crisis

Great episode from Vanguard on the world toilet crisis.  It takes you to several countries where they still practice open defecation and explores why this still goes on, the consequences of it, and what is happening to end this practice.  Meet several forward thinking people working to change this unsanitary practice.

WARNING: if you have a weak stomach be careful.  The video doesn’t just talk about open defecation, it shows it.

Click here: World Toilet Crisis

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Saving water at home

Let’s start with a couple of statistics:

  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day. (2006 United Nations Human Development Report.)
  • The average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water a day. The average person in the United Kingdom uses 35.66 gallons of water per day. The average person in the United States uses between 100 and 175 gallons every day at home. (http://blueplanetnetwork.org)
  • One toilet flush uses as much water as the average person in a developing country uses for a whole day’s drinking, cooking, washing and cleaning! (waterforlife.org)

Why does the west use so much water in our everyday life?  The most simple explanation is that we’re wasteful.  We can’t imagine our water ever running out so why conserve it?  One reason is because so many people in the world live without it.  So what can you do in your everyday life to save water?  Take a look below.

  • Turn your faucet off when brushing your teeth/shaving.
  • Install faucet aerators on your bathroom and kitchen sinks.
  • Install a low flow shower head.
  • Putting something like a brick, or a toilet tummy in your toilet tank can save you up to 3/4 of a gallon with each flush
  • Make sure you dont have any leaky pipes in your house.  (Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills. (EPA))

Water Crisis Facts

Here are a handful of troubling statistics on the water crisis:
  • 783 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly 11% of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is about 35% of the world’s population. (WHO/UNICEF)
  • 1.4 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 4,000 deaths a day or one every 20 seconds . (WHO)
  • Hand-washing with soap at critical times can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by up to 47%. (UN Water)
  • The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 40 pounds, the same as an airport luggage allowance.
  • At any one time, half of the developing world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diarrhea. (UNDP)
  • Intestinal worms infect about 10% of the population of the developing world. Intestinal parasitic infections can lead to malnutrition, anemia and stunted growth. (WHO)
  • Children in poor environments often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies at a time. (UNICEF)
  • Every year, around 60 million children in the developing world are born into households without access to sanitation . (UN Water)
  • In the developing world as a whole, around 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers, polluting them and affecting plant and aquatic life. (UN)
  • People living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city. (2006 United Nations Human Development Report.)
  • In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II. (blueplanetnetwork.org)
  • The average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is six kilometers. (blueplanetnetwork.org)