Water scarcity is one of the largest threats facing humanity today due to constant water shortages being experienced all over the world. Only a small percentage of the world’s water (about 3%) is fit for human consumption with two percent of this amount present in glaciers and ice caps. The United Nations has given water due prominence by making it one of its millennium development goals. Such is the importance of water that governments have started developing new technologies and projects to cushion its effects on the world population. These initiatives include desalination, rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment and water location transfers.
What is water treatment?
It is the process of eliminating harmful contaminants from water so that it can be safe for human and animal consumption. In order to make sure that excellent water is obtained and sanitation quality is observed, the process is divided into several phases. A rudimentary breakdown of the phases is as follows:
Preliminary phase: large filters are used to remove big inorganic solid materials like metal, paper and plastic.
- Elimination of silt and grit that is abrasive to machinery.
- Primary sedimentation to remove solid organic material.
- Sludge phase where microorganisms are used to dissolve organic solids and the resulting biomass is decanted.
Tertiary treatment phase: where chemical (chlorine) is used to remove harmful pathogens. The resulting product is fresh water that is fit for human consumption.
Water treatment helps us achieve environmental sustainability in the following ways:
1. Reduction of Waste
Water treatment reduces the volume of waste that is released into the ecosystem. When wastewater is treated, the quantity of waste that is released into the environment is cut down significantly resulting into overall improvement in the environment’s status. By cutting down environmental pollution, water treatment helps to reduce health hazards that emanate from a polluted environment.
There is reduction of water wastage that is induced by water pollution. Water treatment has a financial benefit in that it trims down the amount of money that is used by a country to rehabilitate a polluted environment.
2. Production of energy
As described above, there is use of microorganisms (bacteria) in the sludge phase to breakdown organic matter and produce a large quantity of biomass. In this process the organic matter is mixed with the bacteria, enclosed in bio-digesters and subjected to medium range temperatures of about 35 degrees C. Biogas is produced during this process. Methane constitutes a high percentage of biogas and can be used for generating energy to power the water treatment complex. If the energy produced is of significant quantities it can be injected into a country’s national electricity grid.
The advantage of this green energy cannot be overstated since it decreases the over reliance on non-renewable sources of energy like petroleum, coal, wood and charcoal. This will reduce the carbon footprint of a country and its expenditure on meeting its energy needs. Case studies in various countries have established that an efficient water treatment plant can produce forty percent of the total energy that is required to run the plant.
Biogas can also be used for domestic cooking fuel, for generation of electricity and heat energy for homes and for powering vehicles.
3. Source of clean water
As mentioned before, the water resources in the world are dwindling at an alarming rate. The available water resources will not be able to sustain the projected population increase in the coming years.
Wastewater treatment will ensure there will be a balance between water supply and demand. Through filtration of harmful contaminants from wastewater and giving out hygienic and safe water, there will be adequate supply for everyone. Homefixplanet.com offers the best solutions for water treatment systems. The lurking fear of harmful water supply, drought and water shortage will be a thing of the past if water is recycled.
4. Production of fertilizer
The biomass that is produced from the sludge phase is decanted and dried: this turns it into organic fertilizer. The current trend in the world is to use less of chemical (inorganic) fertilizer for farming. This is because scientific studies have shown residual presence of these chemicals in harvested crops has long term effects on the consumer.
The other deterrent aspect of chemical fertilizers is eutrophication that results when used fertilizer is leached into water bodies. Eutrophication is the exponential increase in aquatic life (due to leached chemical fertilizer) at levels that cannot be sustained by water ecosystems. Use of organic fertilizers does not result into eutrophication because their level of leaching is negligible due to their slow process of biodegradation and absorption into the soil.
5. Disease prevention
Wastewater contains potentially harmful bacteria that can make consumers of water contract parasitic infections. Parasitic infestation occurs in people of all ages: toddlers and adults. The infection may range from mild to severe and even critical. It may affect your gastrointestinal tract, skin, body organs and blood.
Gastrointestinal tract infection is common in children of all ages and normally involves giardiasis, dysentery, cholera and gastroenteritis which are spread through contaminated water. This infections result into diarrhea. During water treatment, waste water is passed through filters that remove contaminants and destroy lethal microorganisms.
Water treatment therefore plays an essential function in removing pollutants from water (approximately ninety seven percent) that could be awfully harmful if consumed. There are no harmful bacteria that end up in the environment that would otherwise have damaging effects on animals, plants and people. Waste water also contains harmful chemicals which if released to the environment would destroy flora and fauna life forms.
6. Clean environment for recreation
Wastewater treatment ensures people will be able to enjoy water sports without having to worry about water pollution. Water from treatment plants can also be supplied to areas experiencing drought. Thus water treatment is an eco-friendly process that helps in reducing water wastage by recycling water that would otherwise have been deemed to be unsanitary and end up being disposed.
The process of water treatment has many benefits and that makes it viable in the long and short-term answer to the water crisis bedeviling the world today which keeps on multiplying simultaneously with increase in world population.
Mathematical models project the world population to increase up to nine billion people in the next few years. This is bound to increase the volume of waste water that will be produced, making water treatment a critical aspect of environmental conservation and sustainability. Expanding wastewater treatment sector will produce large quantities of fresh water and help bring down the level of water scarcity.