When I first mentioned the “water enhancer” Stur in August (included on my Recommended Products Page), I noted I wouldn’t even try the popular brand a friend was using since it had “propylene glycol, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.” Propylene glycol, not to be confused with the antifreeze ethylene glycol, is a synthetic chemical used as a humectant (moistening agent), solvent, and preservative in food and tobacco products — and one of the major ingredients of the “e-liquid” cartridges used in electronic cigarettes. Recently, Kit and I were at a class taught by an organic chemist — a Drug Enforcement Agency agent who has years of field experience. She now travels around giving classes to medics and cops about the latest trends we will encounter in the realm of street drugs. Kit couldn’t help it: she asked why the heck propylene glycol was in “water enhancer” (made to make water taste good so you’ll drink more, which is a Good Thing, right?)
The answer was fascinating: the chemist confirmed it’s used in a lot of foods, and was aghast about that; she doesn’t think it’s safe enough for consumption. The “official” reason it’s used in consumable products is that it’s mildly sweet — but surely there are much better sweeteners out there. The real reason, she said, is it’s a diuretic — it makes you thirsty! It’s also hygroscopic, pulling water out of your mucous membranes (think: the inside of your mouth), and thus dries out your mouth. Therefore, the more you drink, the more you want to drink, so you use more of the product, yet don’t really get most of the benefits of drinking more water. Insidious, isn’t it? I’m gleeful I rejected the “popular” brand in favor of the “natural” one. I just thought it was awfully interesting to hear her take on it.
Roving Blue’s new O-Pen brings ozone purification anywhere you go
The highlight of Overland Expo East was the large motor vehicles and trailers, but the show also had some interesting tech in smaller packages. Perhaps the smallest of all, the Roving Blue O-Pen supports off-roaders and world travelers by keeping drinking water clean and fresh. In contrast to more common purification means, like UV rays and iodine, this pen-sized, battery-powered purification device kills bacteria, protozoa and viruses with the stuff that blocks those UV rays in the atmosphere: ozone.
The concept of using ozone to treat drinking water isn’t a new one, dating back to the late 1800s. The US EPA’s Drinking Water Treatability Database identifies ozone as “one of the strongest disinfectants and oxidants available in drinking water treatment,” and the US Food and Drug Administration recognizes ozone’s use for both water and food.
Ozone has tended to be used for larger applications, such as municipal drinking water systems and household purification. Roving Blue specializes in portable systems, including the MVP-A carry case kit and the all-new O-Pen, possibly the most portable ozone-based purifier out there. The Wisconsin-based company says the stainless steel pen is TSA-approved and markets it at world travellers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The O-Pen weighs just over an ounce (30 g) and purifies 16 oz (0.5L) of water in less than a minute. You simply drop the tip into the water, turn it on and let it do its thing. It bubbles while in use, providing a visual cue that clean water is on the way. In addition to taking care of all sizes of dangerous microorganisms, from tiny viruses to larger bacteria and protozoa, the O-Pen removes unpleasant tastes and odors, leaving a clean, fresh taste, one of the advantages that ozone offers over other treatment options, such as chlorine.
We took a look at the O-Pen at Bundutec USA’s Overland Expo East booth. At first, it seemed a little strange to see such a small, ultralight purification system there, as the show is targeted mostly at people that travel in large camping vehicles with plenty of room to store larger water treatment systems, including vehicle-integrated systems like the optional one on the Base Camp trailer. But it’s not as though such travelers never leave the vehicle to hike, boat, bike, etc., so a pocketable purifier could certainly find its uses among the attendees.
The O-Pen seems like a natural competitor to light, portable UV purifiers. The Steripen Freedom we covered years ago, which is now listed as discontinued but available in limited quantities at various retailers in the US and Europe, weighs just over double the O-Pen at 2.6 oz (74 g) and treats 1/2 a liter of water in 48 seconds. The Freedom offers more uses per charge at 40 treatments (20 liters) versus 30 treatments (15 liters) for the O-Pen. Like the Freedom, the O-Pen recharges via USB cord.
The O-Pen launched in July and is available for US$199. That’s more expensive than any Steripen model, but perhaps the price will become more competitive over time.
Market research company Euromonitor International’s white paper “Sustainability and the New Normal for Natural Resources” has revealed that reliable access to natural resources is of critical importance to governments, businesses and consumers.
According to the whitepaper, in 2015, the World Economic Forum mentioned water crisis as the number one long-term global threat.
Still underestimated by many businesses, water risk is a very serious and complex issue which threatens wildlife, human access to clean water and continuation of business through shortage, flooding and pollution.
A well-managed water strategy, conversely, can help build a resilient and innovative business and a strong ethical brand image.
“Water stress and poor water stewardship can have a sizeable impact on profit and a huge impact on businesses’ reputation and operations.
The most obviously affected sector is the food and drinks industry, where water is a key input.
But many other sectors are also at risk, including apparel, energy and beauty and personal care,” says Sarah Boumphrey, Global Lead of Economies and Consumers at Euromonitor International.
The whitepaper also reveals that a large amount of packaged food companies’ growth is increasingly reliant on water-stressed regions with India having the largest area harvested for cereals in 2015.
It also mentioned that soft drinks and beer record the highest absolute volume of water consumption and are highly vulnerable to water risk.
The prediction is that by 2020, 50 per cent of the global laundry detergents market by volume will be accounted for, by water stressed countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the US.
Based in the Eifel region of Germany, the Perlenbach Water Supply Association is using the condition monitoring of Schaeffler’s new FAG SmartQB, which can identify problems in advance and then recommend preventative actions to be taken.
The SmartQB unit has been released in Australia and provides information about the condition of up to six machines or assemblies using plain text messages.
“The technology used by the Perlenbach Water Supply Association is readily available across Australasia, and is our easiest to use condition monitoring device,” says Mark Ciechanowicz, Industrial Services Manager, Schaeffler Australia. “It’s designed to generate plain text messages on its screen, so that any in-house technician can operated the unit without additional knowledge of vibration technology.”
The Perlenbach Water Supply Association supplies fresh drinking water to roughly 50,000 residents in seven municipalities in the Eifel region each day. Around 2.4 cubic meters of water is supplied in the area each year, which has been filtered and treated using complex methods until it meets the high requirements defined in the German drinking water regulations.
This system has proven to be reliable only after a short period. The maintenance personnel were able to react quickly and in a targeted manner thanks to the information and specific fault assessment provided at an early stage about the onset of bearing damage. Both bearings in the 8-stage centrifugal pump were replaced by the maintenance staff in an extremely short period of time, thereby preventing severe damage to the facility. Unplanned downtimes of up to several weeks in combination with considerable damage could be prevented this way.
Increased vibrations and noise on the centrifugal pumps are often due to bearing abnormalities. These irregularities may cause the centrifugal pumps to fail and thus pose a threat to the supply of water. To prevent this, the Perlenbach water supply association decided to change from a temporary pump monitoring system to a continuous pump monitoring system. The objective was to generate long advanced warning times.
As part of a pilot project at the association, two centrifugal pumps were equipped with two FAG SmartQB sensors each and linked with the FAG SmartQB. In the event of irregularities, the FAG SmartLamp installed adjacent the FAG SmartQB illuminates red and the system generates a message. With only two extra clicks on the touch display, the maintenance technician can view more detailed data about the fault and specific recommended actions.
A brief odyssey into the world that I cherish most: water.
A beautiful vid by Morgan Maassen in which everything is blue, moving, perfect. We anglers depend on water, we love water not only because fish live in it, but because we know all life comes from the ocean. There’s something magic in water, and we can feel it in this film, selected by the Vimeo staff.
Perfect music on perfect images:
“Shopping Malls” by SJD
Man and the Sea
Free man, you will always cherish the sea!
The sea is your mirror; you contemplate your soul
In the infinite unrolling of its billows;
Your mind is an abyss that is no less bitter.
You like to plunge into the bosom of your image;
You embrace it with eyes and arms, and your heart
Is distracted at times from its own clamoring
By the sound of this plaint, wild and untamable.
Both of you are gloomy and reticent:
Man, no one has sounded the depths of your being;
O Sea, no person knows your most hidden riches,
So zealously do you keep your secrets!
Yet for countless ages you have fought each other
Without pity, without remorse,
So fiercely do you love carnage and death,
O eternal fighters, implacable brothers!
How much does your bottled water cost? Where is it sourced from? And what does its label say?
Nature’s Best, based in Sydney, treats tap water and slaps “pure, safe” on the label of a 600-millilitre bottle, which is typically marked up by 1720 per cent to $2 in shops across Australia.
“The water is basically free, so I see it as just selling plastic bottles,” said Warren Peffer, owner of Nature’s Best, which sells 25 million units each year. “Our filters are not a huge cost; being filtered may be part of the appeal for some.”
A Fairfax Media survey of bottled water sold in Sydney’s cafes, supermarkets and convenience stores has found seven out of 34 brands are “purified” tap water.
The average price of bottled tap water is $2.75 per litre, with the cheapest being a Pureau 600ml in a six-pack at $1.41 a litre from Coles, and the priciest a Mount Everest 600ml at $4.17/lt from City Convenience – reflecting the logic that buying in bulk leads to a better deal.
Sydney’s most expensive water is Santa Vittoria in a green 250ml glass bottle at Woolworths. It is a staggering $12/lt – a price usually seen at fancy, hatted restaurants.
The average price of spring and mineral water is $5.18/lt, with the bargain being a Harris Farm 600ml at 60¢/lt in a 12-pack.
Australians are guzzling more bottled water than ever before, with the latest Euromonitor figures showing annual sales of still bottled water soared to 466 million litres in 2015, 39 per cent more than in 2010.
“The two main reasons are health and convenience. A lot of people are switching from soft drink, and bottled water is an easy, on-the-go alternative,” said Euromonitor’s Sara Agostino.
Fairfax Media spotted farcical claims on labels, such as “Suitable for vegetarians and vegans” on Aldi’s Northbrook spring water.
The label on Nature’s Best carries lines such as “Refrigeration after opening is recommended” and “Not for re-use”.
Mr Peffer said his water tastes better cold: “If you drink lukewarm water that’s been sitting in the car, it’s just not so nice, so it’s a recommendation to make it nicer.”
On its website, Saka Water Australia states its spring water from Turkey’s Koroglu Mountain has “no sugar, no fat, no calories”.
Its director Richard Ayoub argued the claim is necessary to make people “aware that unlike soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, with Saka Water you are not having any of the above.”
The website also declares Saka achieves “Better absorption than any other water brand”.
Mr Ayoub said tests by a kinesiologist showed: “On average, most regular brands absorb at 60 per cent, tap water at 62 per cent, electric alkaline ioniser at 92 per cent and Saka Water at 99 per cent, 100 per cent with a squeeze of lemon.”
The survey also found Capi Mineral Water Still has the highest sodium content at 50 milligrams a litre.
While sodium is an essential nutrient and consumed in large amounts in food, an official state health guideline suggests people with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems and preparing baby formula should take extra care when the sodium content is above 20mg/lt.
Ben Woysky from Capi said the bottle featured a typical water analysis of minerals at the source.
“These minerals vary season to season and are very dependent on factors such as rainfall and drought periods, which can skew the level of minerals in water,” he said.
“The contents of each bottle may not reflect what is actually stated on the label. It is not regulated in Australia.”
Sydney Water adds small but effective amounts of sodium, fluoride and chlorine, among other things, to produce high-quality tap water that’s safe to drink.
Its principal public health adviser Peter Cox said guidelines limit sodium to 180mg/lt, but its tap water was well below that and the focus was primarily on taste.
“We once considered bottling our drinking water, but we learned even if you take the cleanest water out of a spring, the micro-organisms will change the water quality,” he said.
“People like to believe bottled water is pure, straight from nature, with no human intervention, but it has to be treated.”
The survey also found a third of the bottles were tinted blue, which strengthens the image of purity. Some have opted to use see-through labels, such as Capi, Fiji and the new-look Evian, which desires to “showcase the purity of the contents”.
Gary Mortimer, marketing expert at Queensland University of Technology, said manufacturers use labels, colours and design to appeal to different market segments.
“Marketers can’t claim bottled water is better for you than tap water, so they use things like ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ or use images like snow-cap mountains to lead us to believe that,” he said.
Of the 34 brands surveyed, eight were from overseas, with Evian, sourced from the French Alps, and Voss, from southern Norway, travelling the furthest.
Mineral Water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing strata that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. It must have a level of total dissolved solids of greater than 250 parts per million. No minerals may be added.
Natural Water – Bottled spring, mineral or well water which is derived from an underground formation or water from surface water that only requires minimal processing, is not derived from a municipal system or public water supply, and is unmodified except for limited treatment.
Purified Water – Bottled water produced by distillation, deionisation, reverse osmosis.
Spring water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing stratum that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. No minerals may be added.
The team developed a technique that uses small recording devices to collect data, which is then run through mathematical models to pinpoint leaks (Credit: Ibai / CC 2.0)
In the average distribution system, as much as 30 percent of treated water is lost due to simple, fixable leaks, but the problems are often located underground, and can be hard to pinpoint. Now, researchers at Canada’s Concordia University have developed a technique that could have a big impact on the problem, using “noise logger” devices to spot underground leaks to an accuracy of 99.5 percent.
It’s easy to take having a good supply of clean water for granted, but it’s actually a huge global issue, and one that’s getting much worse, with as much as a third of the world’s population expected to experience scarcity issues by 2025. A recent MIT study also looked at the issue, using various computer simulations to determine that a significant percentage of the population of Asia could suffer from water shortage by 2050.
So, what can we do about it? Well, the Concordia research team decided to focus on improving existing systems by developing an accurate method for detecting leaks, which are thought to be responsible for the loss of, on average, between 20 and 30 percent of treated water. Older systems can be even less efficient, losing as much as 50 percent of the water passing through them.
If you’re looking to repair a suspected leak, it’s important to know exactly where the problem is, with excavation and resurfacing being expensive, and mistakes having the potential to cause unnecessary disruption.
The researchers’ solution involves installing “noise loggers” throughout a water network, using them to record noise, listening out for leaks. The units are magnetically attached to manholes, valves or hydrants across a network, switching on at a predetermined time – usually at night when background noise is minimal – to record decibel readings of noise level and spread, for a two-hour period.
The devices are battery-powered, measure 12.3 cm (4.8 in) tall and 5 cm (2 in) wide, and weigh 700 g (1.5 lb) each. If a noise that’s picked up by a logger during its recording period is found to be consistent, then it’s likely due to a leak. With that data in hand, the Concordia team’s technique then uses predictive mathematical modelling to pinpoint the exact location of individual leaks.
“This approach can reduce the duration of a leak, as well as the cost and time involved in locating the site in need of repair,” said paper co-author professor Tarek Zayed.
The team tested its technique in Qatar, which has the lowest rainfall rates, and some of the highest evaporation rates in the world. The water loss problem is thought to be worse in the country, with leaks causing as much as 35 percent of water to be lost in the average distribution network.
Placing noise loggers across the Qatar University main water network, the team was able to run the data collected through mathematical models to pick out the location of leaks. Checking the identified locations revealed that the system was working at a 99.5 percent rate of accuracy.
Moving forward, the team intends to try out the technique in other locations, while further developing and improving the leak location predictive models.
The uranium that seeped into the ocean through crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 was universally condemned as the egregious result of a nuclear meltdown. The “radiation plume” that became a Youtube sensation was later denounced as a hoax, but concerns reached as far as the North American west coast as to how far the radioactive isotopes had travelled by ocean currents. To this day authorities in Japan regularly test the fish caught off the shores of Japan for levels deemed safe for human consumption.
But what if that same uranium could be somehow harnessed and brought back into the nuclear fuel cycle? For the past five years scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy have been examining that question. The DOE notes that in the 1990s, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency pioneered materials that hold uranium as it is stuck or adsorbed onto surfaces of the material submerged in seawater.
In 2011 the DOE put together a team from U.S. national laboratories, universities and research institutes to address the challenges of economically extracting uranium from seawater. Now, the team has developed new adsorbents that reduce the cost of extracting uranium from seawater by three to four times, according to the energy department, which first released their results in April.
That teamwork culminated in the creation of braids of polyethylene fibers containing a chemical species called amidoxime that attracts uranium. So far, testing has been conducted in the laboratory with real seawater; but the braids are deployable in oceans, where nature would do the mixing, avoiding the expense of pumping large quantities of seawater through the fibers. After several weeks, uranium oxide–laden fibers are collected and subjected to an acidic treatment that releases, or desorbs, uranyl ions, regenerating the adsorbent for reuse. Further processing and enriching of the uranium produces a material to fuel nuclear power plants.
Marine testing at PNNL showed an ORNL adsorbent material had the capacity to hold 5.2 grams of uranium per kilogram of adsorbent in 49 days of natural seawater exposure—the crowning result presented in the special issue (published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research).
How much uranium is in the ocean? According to the DOE press release the oceans hold more than four billion tons of uranium— “enough to meet global energy needs for the next 10,000 years if only we could capture the element from seawater to fuel nuclear power plants.” While that sounds like a lot of potential nuclear fuel, a quick check of the World Nuclear Association website shows that uranium concentrations in seawater are significantly lower than those found on land. The real challenge, therefore, would be extracting the uranium economically at such low parts per million.
For example uranium exists in the Earth’s continental crust in concentrations of 2.8 parts per million, versus 0.003 parts per million in seawater. The highest-grade uranium ore, for example in Saskatchewan’s Patterson Lake region, has concentrations of 200,000 parts per million. The World Nuclear Association estimates there is a total of 5.9 million tonnes of uranium available, none of it presumably calculated from seawater; the four largest producers, in descending order, are Australia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Canada.
Supply of uranium. Graphic from the World Nuclear Association.