Water Technology / Treatment

  • SuperbugsSewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance

    Wastewater treatment plants are unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists. Researchers found that processing human, farm, and industrial waste all together in one place makes it easier for bacteria to become resistant to a wide range of even the most clinically-effective antibiotics. This is because so many different types of bacteria come together in sewage plants that it gives them a perfect opportunity to swap genes that confer resistance, helping them live. This means antibiotic-resistant bacteria are evolving much faster than they would in isolation.

  • WaterGroundwater reservoirs are being depleted at an increasing rate

    The rate at which the Earth’s groundwater reservoirs are being depleted is constantly increasing. Annual groundwater depletion during the first decade of this century was twice as high as it was between 1960 and 2000. India, the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China are the countries with the highest rates of groundwater depletion. About 15 percent of global groundwater consumption is not sustainable, meaning that it comes from non-renewable groundwater resources. The increased use of groundwater for irrigation also results in a rise in sea levels, with roughly one tenth of the total sea level rise during the period from 2000 to 2009 due to groundwater depletion.

  • WaterGroundwater could be polluted with heavy metals by fracking flowback

    The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell University researchers have found. Previous research has shown 10 to 40 percent of the water and chemical solution mixture injected at high pressure into deep rock strata, surges back to the surface during well development. Researchers found that the same properties that make the mixture so effective at extracting natural gas from shale can also displace tiny particles that are naturally bound to soil, causing associated pollutants such as heavy metals to leach out.

  • WaterChemical pollution of European waters is worse than anticipated

    Until now environmental authorities and parts of the scientific community have considered toxic chemicals to be rather a local problem affecting only a few bodies of water. A new study, however, reveals for the first time on a large scale the ecological risks emanating from chemical toxicants for several thousands of European aquatic systems. Chemical toxicity represents an ecological threat to almost half of all European bodies of water, and in approximately 15 percent of cases, the biota in freshwater systems may even be subject to acute mortality.

  • WaterTurning mining wastewater into rainwater-quality water

    A new cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90 percent has been used for the first time at a commercial mine. The technology, called Virtual Curtain, was used to remove metal contaminants from wastewater at a Queensland mine and the equivalent of around twenty Olympic swimming pools of rainwater-quality water was safely discharged.

  • WaterTurning manure into clean water

    Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer, and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. While turning the manure into clean water makes environmental sense, the researchers are also looking into how this can make good financial sense for farmers. In some cases it could have a significant impact on the long-term viability of the farm.

  • EarthquakesPumping Central Valley’s ground water increases number of California’s earthquakes

    Scientists have offered a new theory explaining the steady increase in the number of small earthquakes in parts of Central California. They say that the quakes are partly due to the pumping of groundwater. Groundwater is heavy, and depresses the Earth’s upper crust like a weight. Without that weight, the earth springs upward and the change in pressure can trigger more small earthquakes.

  • WaterNew technology to detect previously undetectable fecal contamination in water

    Technology capable of sampling water systems to find indicators of fecal matter contamination that are thousandths and even millionths of times smaller than those found by conventional methods is being developed by researchers. The researchers have developed an ultrasensitive detection method that can detect molecules associated with human and animal fecal matter in water systems. These extremely small indicators, he explains, have been traditionally difficult to detect but can signal greater levels of contamination, which can lead to illness and even death.

  • WaterBusinesses take more responsibility for sustainable freshwater use

    Growing freshwater scarcity owing to rising water demands and a changing climate is increasingly perceived as a major risk for the global economy. In a special issue of Nature Climate Change, devoted to this emerging global concern, researchers argue that consumer awareness, private sector initiatives, governmental regulation, and targeted investments are urgently necessary to move toward sustainable water use across value chains.

  • DisastersEmergency water treatment guidelines questioned

    During floods and other emergencies, treating water for drinking is a must, but how to do it is up for debate. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommendations for treating water after a natural disaster or other emergencies call for more chlorine bleach than is necessary to kill disease-causing pathogens and are often impractical to carry out, a new study has found.

  • WaterAvoiding water wars between fracking industry and residents

    The shale gas boom has transformed the energy landscape in the United States, but in some drier locations, it could cause conflict among the energy industry, residents, and agricultural interests over already-scarce water resources, say researchers. They add that degraded water quality is a potential risk unless there are adequate safeguards.

  • Chemical spillsW.Va. residents still wary about their drinking water

    The January 2014 chemical spill in West Virginia, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 residents, has changed how residents use public water. Authorities claimed the water was safe for consumption on 13 January, since MCHM levels had dropped below a federal safety threshold of one part per million. Residents remain skeptical, with some collecting rain water, and other relying on clean water distributed by non-profits.

  • WaterU.S. corporations aware of current, future water risks

    A new survey shows that nearly 60 percent of responding companies — the majority Fortune 500 and publically traded, representing virtually every industry sector — indicated that water is poised negatively to affect business growth and profitability within five years, while more than 80 percent said it will affect their decision on where to locate facilities. This is a stark increase from only five years ago, when water issues affected business growth and profitability for less than 20 percent of responding companies.

  • WaterInternational food trade can alleviate water scarcity

    International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth $2.4 billion in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress, a new study finds. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2,700 liters of water to produce one kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. The researchers found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water.

  • WaterNew technique allows better monitoring of water quality

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses existing technology to allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions. In addition to its utility for natural resource managers, the technique will also allow researchers to develop more sophisticated models that address water quality questions.