Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sustainable and profitable environmental technology alternative to inefficient western sewage

16.11.2006
The Western world purifies its wastewater in a costly and inefficient fashion, which also sets a poor example for developing countries. It is more sustainable – and even profitable – to reuse scarce and often costly resources such as water and fertilisers.

The environmental technology required to achieve this goal is still getting insufficient attention, said Jules van Lier in his inaugural address, professor in Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment for Reuse and Irrigation at Wageningen University.

Prof. Van Lier contends that the greatest concern for ourselves and our progeny is the exhaustion and unequal distribution of resources that are essential for maintaining our society. Greater pressure on these resources leads to even greater social inequality. And this in turn can lead to worldwide social unrest with a fundamental struggle for resources. In contrast, he believes that the concerns about the greenhouse effect and the attempts to limit climate change are futile because there is little that can be done about these problems and they draw attention away from the real issue: the exhaustion of the Earth's resources.

Dealing responsibly with the limited amount of water is one of the greatest challenges for the coming decades, states Van Lier. Only 0.01 - 0.02 percent of all the water on Earth is suitable for human consumption and use ("many times less than the standard measurement error"). Freshwater is a renewable resource; the water that is consumed by a resident of Amsterdam has already passed through a German's body. Van Lier believes it is worthwhile to include the reuse of water and the recovery of resources as part of the basic design of the water chain, where the final user of the water partly determines its quality, and therefore the cost of purification. Extensive purification of water at high cost is pointless if this is not strictly necessary. For example, using a great deal of energy to initially remove fertilisers from wastewater that will be used later in agricultural production cannot be justified. This is especially the case if the land has to be fertilised anyway. Van Lier advocates a much more realistic approach – which could be a breakthrough for developing countries – by implementing wastewater purification on a large scale. He believes this is essential because long periods of pollution are creating a time bomb underneath society. At this time, 1.8 million people die annually by drinking contaminated water, of which 90% are children younger than five, while 2.4 billion people do not even have access to adequate sanitary facilities.

Inefficient

The Western world processes its wastewater inefficiently. In our households, we dilute human waste by a factor of 100 or even more. As a result, we have created an immense wastewater problem, says Van Lier. The removal of pathogens from wastewater can also result in extremely high costs, while its necessity is disputable. For every potential case of hepatitis A infection, the United States spends between 3 and 30 million dollars per year on purification to eliminate the risk. This amount is completely disproportional to the costs of treating one patient with this disease.

Anaerobic purification

Traditional purification technology is based on adding air to the wastewater, which allows aerobic bacteria to do their purifying work. According to Van Lier, this method is completely obsolete; it requires a relatively large amount of energy and does not contribute to sustainable solutions. Within Wageningen University and Research Centre, far-reaching expertise has been developed in the area of anaerobic (oxygen-free) wastewater treatment. This method does not use any energy from fossil fuels. In fact, it produces energy because it generates methane. For developing countries, this consideration is extremely important for the choice of an applicable environmental technology. Much more complex, but equally essential, is that the water chain becomes much better organised, states Van Lier.

Examples include the deliberate reuse of urban wastewater for irrigation in agriculture within and around large cities in developing countries. This is an effective alternative for discharging wastewater to surface waters. It prevents environmental and health problems downstream from the city and provides income for the farmers. However, it also means that the relevant organisations and users need to communicate with each other, so that they can prevent situations such as that in the Jordan Valley. Farmers there use wastewater for irrigation, but have little knowledge of its composition, so they also apply fertilisers. As a result, dangerously high concentrations of nitrate occur in the groundwater.

Jac Niessen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.wur.nl

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>