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Our drying water reservoirs

Cape Town is running out of the water, and low dam levels in the emerald-green highlands of Lesotho are raising alarm bells in South Africa’s industrial heartland around Johannesburg, which delivers so far avoided the shortages hitting other regions.


. Current Affairs Digest by Dr Safdar Mahmood

 

 

Water connects every aspect of life. The water crisis is a health crisis. Access to safe water and sanitation means opportunity for improved health and the ability to help fight disease. It means increased dignity and reduced psychological stress for young ladies and women.

The human body consists of 70 percent of water. Roughly 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, of which 96.5 percent is contained in saltwater oceans. Less than one percent of the water on Earth is fresh and approachable. We all need it to survive. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s species live in lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers, and they are declining at a faster rate than terrestrial and ocean species. WWF is focusing on freshwater ecosystems to help produce a sustainable future for all. Population growth, changing consumption patterns and climate change have put increased pressure on our new water resources.

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Cape Town is running out of the water, and low dam levels in the emerald-green highlands of Lesotho are raising alarm bells in South Africa’s industrial heartland around Johannesburg, which delivers so far avoided the shortages hitting other regions. The overall picture of South Africa is worrying, with Cape Town the most urgent.

Expressing concerns over using up water reserves in Pakistan, environmental experts and researchers say megacities like Lahore lack safe drinking water. According to WASA Lahore, the groundwater table depth in Lahore city has sunk by 600 feet to 1,000 feet. This is an alarming development as the water table depth in the rest of Punjab is between 30 to 60 bases..

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Other large cities in Punjab facing the same situation are Faisalabad and Multan while the same situation also prevails in Karachi owing to its enormous size and humungous population. The urban centre is facing a shortage of water as it is not getting the required 100 million gallons of water. Water theft and power outages at the pumping stations are also the main reason as to why the supply to Karachi is being moved.

New approaches to filtration and extracting moisture from air promise to relieve the world’s looming water scarcity crisis. Meanwhile, improved technology for capturing water vapour from the air holds out hope for arid areas.

Desalination technologies could take fresh water to everyone but are currently very costly. Desalination is an operation that extracts mineral components from saline water. More generally, desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target sum. Most of the modern interest in desalination focuses on the cost-effective provision of clean water for human use. Along with recycled wastewater, it is one of the few rainfall-independent water sources.

Due to its energy consumption, desalinating sea water is generally costlier than fresh water from rivers or groundwater, water recycling and water preservation. Nevertheless, these alternatives are not always available, and depletion of reserves is a critical problem worldwide. Presently, approximately one percent of the world’s population is dependent on desalinated water to meet daily needs. Desalinated water is usually healthier than water from rivers and groundwater, and in that respect is less salty and has limescale in it.

Nevertheless, a revolution in water filtration developed at The University of Manchester could provide a much-needed solution, with ready access to clean water finally a real possibility for the world. A research team led by Professor Rahul Nair in Manchester University has developed a graphene-oxide membrane that makes whisky clear, paving the way for the new commercial application of graphene membrane.

The latest research report says that the newly developed membrane allowed alcohol to fall through and remove the larger molecules, which gives the amber colour to whisky. We filtered whisky and cognac through the graphene-oxide membrane. As a result, we reasoned that the membrane allowed, the alcohol to pass through, removing the larger molecules that give it an amber colour. The clear whisky smells similar to the original whisky. According to Dr Nair, the new research would help them extend the applications of graphene-based membranes from seawater desalination to organic solvent nanofiltration.

In April 2017, Prof Nair demonstrated that a multi-layer membrane made from graphite oxide could filter out the sodium chloride in seawater much more promptly and cleanly than existing techniques. Unlike seawater desalination, which separates salt from water, OSN technology separates charged or uncharged organic compounds from an organic solvent.

Prof Nair hopes full-sized desalination plants with graphene membranes will be possible within five years. Still, he thinks that a small-scale version of the graphing filter can be developed for bottles and household units within two years. Initial studies indicate that all this is absolutely feasible with the graphene membrane; it performs superbly, better than anything else. Graphene filters would have the further benefit that they will not let any liquid through when they get to the end of their life. During the following few months, the portable graphing filters will be tested to check that they work for chemical contaminants such as cadmium, copper, arsenic, nitrites, nitrates and pesticides.

Solutions to the problems are there, it all depends how quickly actions are taken to resolve the issues.

Posted on May 29, 2018

 

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