It’s a well-known fact that many of the people on Earth do not have the privilege of running water that people in the United States do. In fact, about 6 in 10 people around the world do not have toilets, and 783 million do not have access to clean water. This leads to a large population that suffers from dysentery, cholera, and other diseases, simply because they don’t have this necessary resource.
Thankfully, projects exist all over the world to help solve this problem, from The Water Project to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2011 Reinvent the Toilet Challenge and more. North Texas is fortunate to have constant access to running water.
How You Get Your Tap Water, North Texas
Running water is an absolute must to prevent diseases and infections. It also provides sanitary conditions for sewage and the work that happens within hospitals, schools, and homes. But do you know how water gets to your home? People take the process for granted, but it’s really quite simple!
Unless you have a well, your tap water comes from your local water department. Water is usually provided by local lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. After treatment, it is delivered to your home through a system of pumps, pressure, and gravity. The pressure is determined by valves and the height of your local water tower.
How People Who Don’t Have Water Get Water
In areas where running water is not common, water innovations are a must. Through projects, contests, and research, dozens of solutions have been developed over the years to bring water to those who don’t have it. While new inventions usually focus on being easy to use and cheap, one of the most common solutions, as in Africa, is still carrying a jug of water—which can weigh 40 pounds when full—from the source to where it’s needed.
When that’s not an option, here are just a few of the water innovations that people have thought of to help bring clean water to those who don’t have it:
The Nanofilter is a sand-based water filter that uses nanotechnology to clean contaminated water. Developed by Dr. Askwar Hilonga, the system works by absorbing bad things from water, including:
- Heavy metals
Dr. Hilonga received £25,000 for his work from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineer’s Africa Prize.
Lifestraw won the INDEX: Award in 2005. The invention is a small tube that does wonders. When you use it to drink water directly from the source, such as a river, it purifies the water right away! It also removes pathogens that cause illnesses such as typhoid and dysentery. LifeStraw is inexpensive, small, and can work without electricity or any other attachments.
Ceramic Water Filters
Since the introduction of ceramic water filters, diarrhea-related illnesses have dropped 50% in Cambodia, a country that lacks clean water for about 66% of its residents. Designed by UNICEF and the Water and Sanitation Program, the filters use porous clay and gravity to filter contaminants from drinking water. Ceramic water filters have even reduced the risk of E. coli by nearly 100%.
How Your Sewage System Works, North Texas
Another privilege of running water in North Texas and in the United States is our access to working toilets. For homes that don’t have septic systems, a sewer system is helped by gravity. To assist the system, the treatment plant is usually located downhill. Pipes connect homes, businesses, and other buildings to the city’s system.
The water treatment plant is responsible for filtering the solids, bacteria, and other organic materials from water using settling techniques, actual filters, and chemicals. After chlorine is added to kill any last bacteria that survived the process, the water is discharged from the plant. This process also helps keep toxins and other potential pollutants out of our oceans and rivers, which protects marine life.
What Do People Without Running Water Do with Their Sewage?
Just like clean tap water, many countries do not have access to working toilets, sewage systems, or water treatment plants. This leads to serious problems when it comes to sanitation and the spread of diseases. In fact, over half of schools in areas like these don’t have access to sanitation facilities, resulting in many girls dropping out of school when they hit puberty.
Just like supplying clean water, groups and foundations are working together to develop clean and sanitary sewage solutions for developing countries.
Solar Powered Electrochemical Reactor Toilet
In 2011 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge. Caltech engineer Michael Hoffmann and his colleagues won the contest with their solar-powered electrochemical reactor toilet. The toilet, which is powered by the sun, breaks waste and water down into fertilizer and hydrogen. The filtered water is then used to flush or for irrigation. Caltech won $100,000 for the design.
Nano Membrane Toilet
The Nano Membrane Toilet was also the result of the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge! At a cost of just $0.05 US a day, the system works by using a rotating barrier that removes waste into a tank below the toilet. It separates liquids from solids and even blocks odors. The toilet then turns the liquid waste into vapor, which, can be used for the house or gardening.
Meanwhile, the solid waste is transformed to be safe for disposal, coated in wax. The process helps fuel the toilet, but a hand crank is provided for manual powering.
Water Can Change the World
Organizations and foundations, big and small, are constantly working together to build wells, provide fresh water, and reduce the diseases and illnesses that become worse because of the lack of clean, running water.
These are just three that work tirelessly to help developing countries increase their access to this much-needed resource. Innovations are announced every year with the hope that one day the number of people without clean water will be reduced to 0 instead of 783 million.