Tag Archives: water

Clean water as easy as making instant coffee

17 Sep
Kayla Hunt is junior at the University of Florida majoring in Public Relations. Wanting to experiment writing on science and health and environmental topics, she decided Layman's Terms Media would be the perfect outlet. In her free time, she keeps  an informal blog titled Bloggish Gibberish that chronicles her life experiences as a college student.

Kayla Hunt is junior at the University of Florida majoring in Public Relations. Wanting to experiment writing on science and health and environmental topics, she decided Layman’s Terms Media would be the perfect outlet. In her free time, she keeps an informal blog titled Bloggish Gibberish that chronicles her life experiences as a college student.

This is the first of a series of posts by undergraduate journalism and public relations students at the University of Florida. Layman’s Terms Media will serve as a platform for those willing to give science and health communication a try.  By using this blog as a platform, students will get one-one time with an editor and mentor to ease them into one of the areas of communication that are often misunderstood. 

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By: Kayla Hunt

According to UNICEF, contaminated drinking water and lack of sanitation accounts for the death of about 1,800 children under the age of five every day.

In an effort to ease this dilemma, scientists from more than 100 organizations and governments have collaborated with Procter & Gamble’s nonprofit program, Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW), alongside the Center for Disease Control to come up with a purification process so simple kids can do it.

The process is as easy as making instant coffee. First, take about an ounce of this “miracle powder,” put it in roughly 10 liters of water and stir.

In about 30 minutes, the finished result is drinking water that looks like it came right from a Brita filter. Seriously, a 2-year-old can do this.

“We call it a mini-water-treatment plant in a packet,” CSDW Manager Allison Tummon Kamphuis, R.N., M.B.A. said.

She explained that the powder in the ketchup-sized packet is like a municipal water-treatment plant that is portable.

The packet’s ingredients pack a powerful punch against the contamination. The main ingredients are calcium hypochlorite and ferrice sulfate. Calcium hypochlorite kills deadly pathogens, and ferric sulfate sticks to the dirt and other pathogens that aren’t killed by the calcium hypochlorite.

The initiative began in the mid-1990s and by the mid-2000s, the team had perfected the ketchup-sized packet that to this day has saved about 32,000 lives by providing more than 6 billion quarts of clean water.

The Purifier of Water packets, which run at about 10 cents a pop have been used in countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Pakistan. To this date, the packets have served populations in a total of 71 countries. Tummon Kamphuis said she hopes the miracle packet will help the team reach their goal of saving one life every hour by 2020.

To reach this goal, the team built a new production center was opened in Singapore last year and plans to invest in wide-reaching public awareness campaigns in the near future.

“The real key to us achieving numbers like that and providing that much water and having the estimated health impact that we report is really partnership,” Tummon Kamphuis said.

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Everyday environmental laws: How the EPA fits into the urban grid

11 Sep

Summer Science explained:

Summer Science explained is a new blog series on Layman’s Terms Media. Each week, phenomena that are unique to summer time will be broken down and explained. I am currently taking suggestions for topics, so if there is something you’ve always wondered about feel free to contact me and pitch an idea!

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Environmental laws in the United States help protect us every day. While they are not flawless, and are always improving, we may take for granted how much they affect our lives. In a way, the protect us from ourselves.

As a high-consuming society we produce a ton of waste (well, millions of tons) and this waste can be dangerous if not monitored and controlled in a systematic manner. For this reason we have these laws to thank for one of the most vital life sources: clean drinking water.

My environmental health professor, Dr. Joseph Delfino used a hand-drawn version of the urban grid below in class to stress this point. I simply made a computerized version of it, but it was his idea. I asked him if I could post a similar version and write a post explaining how they connect to us in our every day lives.  With his permission, here it is!

How we experience environmental laws

How we experience environmental laws

 

What are environmental laws?

Environmental laws include every type of environmental protection that derives from:

  • U.S. and state constitutions
  • Federal and state statutes and constitutions and local ordinances
  • Regulations published by federal, state and local agencies
  • Presidential executive orders
  • Court decisions interpreting these laws
  • Common law

What the acronyms stand for:

SDWA: Safe Drinking Water Act

Who doesn’t want to drink water that is safe? I may be an adrenaline junkie but I don’t think using the word “dangerous” to describe a vital life source sounds appealing to me. This law is meant to ensure that our drinking water poses only a minimal risk to our health.

Florida SUPER (State Underground Petroleum Environmental Response) Act

The gas you pump in your car is typically stored underground, the same place where our water comes from. If the storage tanks are damaged or start leaking for any reason, there is a risk of petroleum leaking into the water we drink. The purpose of this act is to identify areas in the state that may be contaminated and take steps to minimize health risks and get drinkable water to that community through new treatment centers or alternative sources.

CWA: Clean Water Act

Most of the things we own were probably at a factory of some sort before they were in our possession. These factories all produce waste that needs to be disposed of properly. The Clean water Act ensures that these factories, and any other businesses that release pollutants abide the wastewater standards enforced by the law as well as obtain a permit before releasing any pollutant into navigable waters.

RCRA: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

The factories I was talking about in the last law also may have  solid or hazardous waste (waste that is dangerous or potentially harmful to our health) they need to dispose of properly. This law makes sure that waste is tracked “from cradle to grave” or from the source to the hazardous waste storage site.

CERCLA (Superfund): Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act

This act helps with financial support for cleaning up old and abandoned waste sites as well as spills, accidents and any other major pollutants released into the environment by providing a “superfund.” But, this fund isn’t infinite and if the source of the pollution can be identified, the parties responsible will also be picking up the bill for the cleanup.

Now that I have you filled in about what the laws are and what they do (please refer to the links for a more in-depth explanation) I decided to go back in time to the fourth grade and give poetry another try. After days and days of academic writing, I decided to have some fun. Point of clarification: the cheesiness is well intended.

A girl who thinks too much about water

I live in the countryside my water comes from a well

Until last week, it was as clean as I could tell. 

But then I got sick and it wasn’t very pretty,

I packed my bags and moved to the city. 

My well water wasn’t protected since it wasn’t a municipal source

Ah! Municipal water is protected by the SDWA, of course!

It comes from the ground, the river to the plant to get treated.

Driving to school now, my car has overheated!

Oh, wait. The tank is on E!

I shake my head. This always happens to me.

I look across the street, a station is found.

As I walk, I think “Is fuel stored underground?”

It is, but what if something goes wrong?

If a tank leaks, to the city will it flow along?

If it does, not to stress

The Florida Super Act will put the issue to rest. 

But what about the factories? And all of the waste?

Can it get into my water too? I start to pace.

Aha! The waste tracked is from “cradle to grave” 

I stop and ponder. Oh, right the RCRA

But, what about the waste that gets away, can it seep into my water?

No, worries. The CWA takes care of that bother.

Eventually any abandoned waste sites will be sanitized

and the party responsible for the pollution will be fined. 

If no culprit is found, CERCLA says the EPA can tap into the “superfund” money

The money’s not infinite, so its not a matter so funny. 

These laws and regulations are not a one-stop solution, 

But they help prevent chaos, bad health and pollution. 

 

Ok, I know. I forewarned you about the cheesiness. But, I hope you now have a better understanding of some of the main environmental laws that protect us every day.

 

 

 

 

Trees responding to climate change: Being smart about water use

11 Jul

While the human species is struggling to collaborate on the best methods to combat climate change, trees are using their instincts to survive, a new study finds. 

Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, Harvard University, The Ohio State University, Indiana University, and the Institute of Meteorology and Climate in Germany found that trees in the northern hemisphere have increased their water-use efficiency over the past two decades.

Water-use efficiency refers to the ratio of water loss to carbon gain during photosynthesis.

But, the increased efficiency has both positive and negative consequences.

“Our analysis suggests that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is having a direct and unexpectedly strong influence on ecosystem processes and biosphere-atmosphere interactions in temperate and boreal forests,” Dave Hollinger, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, and one of the co-authors of the study said.

Hollinger explained that the change can result in more timber for building as well as a greater supply of available freshwater which could reduce the harshness of droughts in some parts of the world. However, high water-use efficiency also results in warmer temperatures and increased dryness in the air. In addition, the recycling of precipitation is hindered, therefore causing more freshwater runoff which could  increase the risk of droughts in places that rely on the water transpired in other areas.

The study, “Increase in forest water-use efficiency as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise,” was published online today in the journal Nature.

Study offers new way for policymakers to value water

13 Nov

H20: These three simple characters are equivalent to one of the most important elements on Earth: water. But, until now,measuring the actual economical and ecological value of water in a way that is effective to decision makers has been problematic and inconsistent.

The quality of water effects not only the water we drink, but also the water we use for recreational purposes and water that we fish from. As human pressures on our water sources escalate, actions must be taken to soften the blow on water quality and  human well-being.

Researchers at University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment have proposed a new framework for policymakers to use when deciding what ecosystem changes need to take place to ensure the highest quality of water.  The authors of the study explained that a new framework was needed because past models failed to link actions with changes in human well-being and therefore underestimated the value of water. Continue reading