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Dirty to Clean in Seconds



t is projected that the availability of fresh water will decline as 1.8 billion people will be affected by water scarcity by 2025, according to the UN.


This has led to our reliance on less traditional sources, such as deep fossil aquifers and waste water reclamation.


n 2007, Englishman Michael Pritchard invented a bottle that was able to filter dirty water and make it drinkable immediately.

Over 80% of diseases in third world countries originate from the consumption of polluted water. And more than three million die of waterrelated diseases each year.

An activated carbon filter reduces chemical residues and eliminates bad tastes and odours while a second cartridge removes microbiological water-borne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

The only option? But the Lifesaver is more expensive than other available water filters at US$20 if it is mass produced. The US$8 siphon filter is more commonly used in developing countries such as Ghana to get clean water.

Fourteen years on and two-thirds of the world population is living in water stress areas. Natural disasters are depleting water sources in many countries. This year, Sumatra experienced earthquake and Manila, Vietnam and Taiwan were hit by typhoons.

In Asia, almost one in two people do not have proper sanitation, making diarrhoea the top health problem affecting children under the age of five.

The filter is placed in a container on higher ground, and a tube transports the filtered water into a container at a lower ground. While it can filter approximately 7 000-10 000 litres before needing to be replaced, the filtering process takes a long time, unlike the Lifesaver bottle, and it works best only when the water is not cloudy or opaque.

The result: drinkable water is becoming a scarce resource for about 3 billion people living in poverty. Climate change is expected to make things worse.

Hope for the future

In Southeast Asia, 500 million people live in either low-lying river deltas or far-flung islands. Climate change threatens to inundate such areas.

Mr Pritchard urges for more money be invested in the Lifesaver bottles to lower production costs.

“Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development” says UN chief Ban Ki-Moon.

“With the Lifesaver bottle, I hope that we can give millions in developing countries a chance at filtering their own water - it was why I invented the bottle in the first place,” said Mr Pritchard.


How water availability may change, through the years, as temperatures, population and industrialisation increase. Map shows water trend from 61-90, to 2020s, and finally to the 2050s.

Besides shortage in drinkable water, sanitation is another major issue as contaminated water is the greatest cause of human disease and death. The rise in water contamination will lead to an increase in the use of purified water globally, particularly in areas where “scarcity, efficiency, conservation and water management” are considered, said Professor Joan Rose, a microbiologist expert who assessed Singapore’s Newater. Currently, less than five percent of consumed water is recycled. The other 95% represents a huge opportunity to reduce pollution while simultaneously reclaiming our water resource.

While studies show that the world is on track to meet the drinking water target, it will miss the sanitation target by 700 million people.

A person drinks 2-4 litres a day but needs 22 bathtubs of water to produce his daily food.

• Water-borne diseases and pollution receive little government attention • Water conflicts over shared resources due to inadequate legal agreements


• 70% of water used for agriculture • Industrial water wastage

An African boy featured in campaign with the tagline “Bad water kills more children than war”. 90 percent of all deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases are children under 5 years of age, mostly in developing countries.

In Padang, Indonesia, 900 000 villagers affected by the recent October earthquake will have to wait for decades for safe drinking water as the entire aqua system is affected and needs very long periods to d e c o n t a m i n a t e . Natural disasters like floods and earthquakes add to the existing problem of poor land and water management, further reducing the access to safe water.

By improving sanitation alone, related deaths can be reduced up to 60%, and diarrhoeal episodes up to 40%. According to the latest Joint Monitoring Programme report, every dollar invested in sanitation yields a return of nine dollars.

In reality, the world’s freshwater resources are distributed unevenly, as is the world’s population. The areas of most severe physical water scarcity are those where high population densities converge with low freshwater availability. Furthermore, only 11% of fresh water is available for human activities. This adds to the challenge of meeting the MDG on reducing hunger. A 50 percent increase in water use for agriculture by 2015 is expected – whether by farming more land or withdrawing more water for irrigation. As of now, steps are being made to move the world towards being carbon neutral. The situation can improve only through political will, public education and open discussion on the unpalatable subject of sanitation, which is still considered a stigma today.

The Future of Water


echnology is the answer to solving the problem of water scarcity. Currently, all the methods have high-electricity consumption. This problem can be solved by using eco-friendly means such as solar or geothermal energy.

Small on Space, Big on Ideas

Reasons for water scarcity POLITICAL

From the global perspective, if all the freshwater on Earth were divided equally, there would be 5000– 6000m3 of water available for everyone annually, giving an impression of abundance.

Squeezing earth the dry: Although water is a renewable resource, it is also a finite one.

A UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Where has all the water gone?

Pollutants of primary concern are waterborne pathogens which affect babies and young children the most.

Globally, access to water and sanitation strongly influences the Human DevelopmentIndex(HDI)whichrankscountriesbasedonitslevelofdevelopment.

Startling Statistics

It takes 11 bathtubs of water to produce one kilo of rice and 78 bathtubs of water to produce one kilo of grain-fed beef.

A problem affecting potential investment is that many of the world’s rivers and aquifers are shared by more than one country, thereby placing major emphasis on water allocation agreements. Hence, water management is essentially conflict management. In the Middle East, although Israel and the West Bank share rivers, Israel’s daily water consumption per capita is four times higher than that in the drought-stricken Palestinian territories. This can be attributed to Israeli restrictions, Palestinian mismanagement and lack of infrastructure.

According to Pritchard, when the cartridge expires (the biggest of which can filter about 6000 litres), it stops working. This mechanism protects the user from contamination, and is a world first.

Ismail Serageldin, 1995.

New water technologies solutions to wars on water.

The current situation of sanitation levels.

Dirty water is filled into the bottle and after a few shakes, clean drinkable water is pumped out.

“The wars of the next century will be about water” - World Bank VP

An old man in India is one of millions who spend several hours a day collecting water from distant, often polluted sources.

The WORLD is drying up

Managing Water More Efficiently


ingapore invests heavily in water management research. In its latest foray for alternative sustainable water resources, the Singapore-Delfi Alliance, set up by the National University of Singapore (NUS), Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Dutch company Deltares, launched the Centre for Aquatic Science Research (CASR).


Water from Water Vapour

Seawater Greenhouses

CASR’s Projects improve water sustainability Earlier Rain Forecast: Provides earlier weather forcecasts, as early as six to 12 hours using satellite and radar data. Helps PUB to plan water catchment instead of allowing excess rainwater to flow into the sea.

Sustaining water supply is crucial to resource-scarce Singapore especially with a rapidly increasing population.

• The system is self-sufficient as it runs on renewable energy • Particularly useful in areas where water sources are not readily available • Such technology is currently being used by the US troops in the Middle East as it is more cost effective • The system is made up of two components – air moisture absorption and vacuum evaporation • A saline solution which runs down a tower-shaped unit absorbs water from the air. Because of the vacuum, the boiling point of the liquid is lower than it would be under normal atmospheric pressure. Energy from solar cells heat up the water and the non-saline evaporated water is condensed down a column.

Singapore’s main sources of water: • Bulk of water comes from Malaysia, but this agreement will end in 2061 • The Four National Taps strategy, consisting of o NEWater, o desalinated water, o water collected in man-made reservoirs and o imported water Educational institutions in Singapore also participate in research for new water technologies. Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute has set up programs and institutes to complement the nation’s efforts to produce sustainable water technologies:

SOCIAL • • • •

Another 2.5 billion people by 2050 Richer countries have access to and use more water Factory waste and other human activities affect water quality Climate change to account for 20% of global increase in water scarcity • Migration patterns affect demand for water

Globally, agriculture remains the biggest user of water and increasing industrialisation has contributed to water wastage.


• Inadequate investment in infrastructure • All technology aims to recover water from stream flow and ground water, which is only 11% of water source. 70% of fresh water is held in the soil • Lack of technology for recycling and treatment of wastewater • Rainwater rarely integrated into water management strategies

o Singapore Membrane Technology Centre o DHI-NTU Water & Environment Research Centre & Education Hub o NEWRI Master of Science programme

References Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, & Reuters (2009, October 28). Palestinians reeling from water shortage. The Straits Times, pp. A26. Black, R. (2009, February 2). Water – another global ‘crisis’? BBC News. Retrieved from ence/nature/7865603.stm Carius, A., Dabelko, G., Kramer, A., Wolf, A. (2009, February 13). Peace in the pipeline. BBC News. Retrieved from Cominelli, E., Galbiati, M., Tonelli, C., & Bowler, C. (2009, July). Water: The Invisible Problem. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from Salmone: Gunasingham, A. (2009, October 10). For Padang, safe drinking water may take decades. The Straits Times, pp. D11. Gunasingham, A. (2009, October 10). S’pore could help shape a climate deal. The Straits Times. Retrieved from

Compared to a forest, the greenhouses will result in larger volumes of evaporated seawater.

Green Roofs: • Plants are grown on rooftops to keep homes cool and retain water from flowing to the grown so as to prevent flooding • Researchers are trying to design a plant base that can help to remove contaminants in the water, such as zinc, cadmium and copper, from flowing to the ground to prevent ground water supply and reservoirs from being polluted

The Centre for Aquatic Science Research (CASR): • Will focus on chemical waste treatment and rooftop drainage • Studies on plants that can remove contaminants are on the way so that they can be used to prevent water pollution • Results from studies and findings can be shared with overseas counterparts Gunasingham, A. (2009, October 31). ‘Newater’s quality has always been high’. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Kallidaikurichi, S., & Koh, T. (2009, June 26). The ripple effect of water woes. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http:// N.A. (n.d.). Water Facts. Retrieved November 2009, from facts/ Pritchard, M. (2007). Technical Information. Retrieved November 2009, from The Lifesaver Bottle: Schiermeier, Q. (2008). Water: Purification with a pinch of salt. Nature , 260-261. ScienceDaily. (2009, June 2). Drinking Water From Air Humidity. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from ScienceDaily: Schultz, S. (2005, December 28). Calls made to strengthen state energy policies. The Country Today, pp. 1A, 2A. The Straits Times (2009, June 24). Global facts on water access. The Straits Times. Retrieved from

Purifying waters in the Reservoirs • Tropical environments may affect water quality in the reservoirs. Too much nutrients in the water can incite algae growth in the water, making it harder to treat. • Currently, researchers have studied possible substances that can improve the quality of water, such as sugar cane and sawdust, that can neutralise water

• Desalination is the most energy-consuming water technology • Increasingly popular, with 75 plants under development globally • 97% of water on Earth is saline water “The world is not short of water, it is just in the wrong place and is too salty,” commented Charlie Paton from Seawater Greenhouse (London, UK). • The new technology of desalination by forward osmosis is less energy intensive, works at very low pressure and reduces brine discharge by using waste heat to obtain salt.

• The Sahara Forest project produces freshwater and energy in hot, arid regions • It makes use of two established technologies: concentrated solar power and ‘seawater greenhouses’ • Seawater greenhouses use thermodynamics for cooling and distilling water • Evaporated seawater is converted into freshwater • The presence of a greenhouse increases the humidity which will see more rainfall, resulting in parts of vegetation in the desert • Excess freshwater that is produced can be used to grow hardier crops which can be converted into biofuel

Wind turbines provide energy to heat up water UNESCO. (n.d.). The UN World Water Development Report. Retrieved November 2009, from World Water Assess ment Programme: United Nations Environment Programme. (2007). Global environment outlook 4. Retrieved from http://www. Vaughan, V. (2009, June 24). Tap the power of used water. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.rednano. sg/sfe/pastnews.action?pubid=ST&sort=D&querystring=water%20shortage Wang, J. & Vaughan, V. (2009, October 24). Clean Water Venture, pp. A1. World Health Organisation.(2009, March). 10 facts about water scarcity. Retrieved from tures/factfiles/water/en/index.html Ziff, S. E. (2007). Siphon Filter Assessment for Northern Ghana. MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

IMAGES Centre for Environment Systems Research (2009). Mapping future water stress. [Graphic]. BBC News. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from Harris, J. (2009). Glass half empty. International Networks Archive. [Graphics]. Retrieved November 10, 2009, from Dizon, M. M. (2009, October 24). Artist’s impression of CASR [Graphics]. Clean Water Venture. By Wang, J. et al. Straits Times, Singapore. Jung von Matt. (2007). Bad water kills more children than war. [Graphics]. Unicef. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from LIFESAVER Systems (2007). Technical details of the LIFESAVER bottle [Graphics]. Lifesaver Filter…. A new silver bullet? Retrieved from Water and Poop Blog [ filter-a-new-silver-bullet/] Obi-Akpere (2006, April 21). Water is life! [Picture]. An African boy-child drinking water out of tap. Retrieved from []

United Nations (2007). State of the planet, in graphics. [Graphics]. BBC News. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from United Nations Environment Programme (2007). State-and-trends of the environment: 1987-2007 on water. [Graph ics]. Global Environment Outlook. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from dia/ Wolinsky, C. (2008, August). Facing the freshwater crisis. Scientific American. [Graphics]. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from Wuerker, M. (2002). Water wars. Oil empire US. [Graphics]. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from http://www.oilempire. us/water.html

Done By: Debby Kwong Farah Elias Liyana Low Nabila Hanim

Treading New Waters  

A science journalism poster highlighting the importance of clean water and how the world is coping with its scarcity.

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