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.
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.
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
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences
24.04.2018 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2018 | Trade Fair News