Tag Archives: Water

Iowa Boys


Visited the University of Agriculture Faisalabad because agriculture is a major industry in Pakistan (accounting for over 5th of GDP), and a MAJOR water user.

There, Dr. Allah Bakhsh (Dean of Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Technology) showed us around his “Research Lab”, which was acres and acres of wheat, rice, sugarcane, tomatoes, cotton, perfectly planted and monitored for performance.

Turns out he got his PhD and Post Doc in Agricultural Engineering at Iowa State.


Progress report


It’s been a while since my last update about my volunteer work (here, here and here).  Today, I’m happy to report, things have been much better for a while.  The GC-MS is up and running (decently well), stable Helium supply has been found, and the whole analysis procedure is starting to take shape.  So, I’m doing much better in my little lab.  So well in fact that, I think it’s time I crawled out of here and explored the “real world” a bit, because how much can you really know about what needs to be analyzed and how to save the world by being cooped up in a lab all day?

And thus was born my Thanthilimale Social Survey Project.  Thanthilimale is a small (mostly agricultural) community about an hour north-northwest of Anuradhapura.  The goal is to embed myself in the community, survey their water supplies and observe how they interact with them.  My hope is that this will give me more insight into the possible causes (and therefore solutions) to the high rates of Chronic Kidney Disease plaguing some parts of this island.  It will last about 2 to 3 weeks, maybe longer depending on funds.

I leave tomorrow!  Wish me luck!


前回の活動アップデートよりだいぶ時間が経ちましたね(herehere and here)。色々進んでます。GS-MSは立ち上がり、ヘリウムの供給も安定しました。分析プロシージャも出来上がってきてます。なので活動をラボから外へ広げようかと考えだしました。目的地はタンティリマレと言う小さな農村。目的はその町に住み、村民・環境・水・仕事の関係性を測り腎臓病の原因を少しでも分かることが出来ないかなと。。。まぁ、ラボにこもってても出来ないこと。2~3週間いるつもり。。。


Countdown to World Water Day 3!!!


Today’s Topic

The Sri Lankan World Water Day logo contains traditional patterns from Sri Lanka, Albania, Canada, and Bulgaria

World Water Day 2013 in Sri Lanka.

World Water Day in Sri Lanka was celebrated by holding a three day Water Conference in Colombo.  It was quite small, but there were exhibitors from all over the world, and the Water Board was out in full force.  Even the President came on day one.  Each of the major departments of the water board had their own booth: the ground water section, mapping section, R&D, and us, the Central Laboratory.  Here are some pictures of us in action.



The Health Ministry of Anuradhapura Province also had a booth.  It was packed…all day long.  I took it as proof of the awareness and concern people have about the issue.  It gave me a renewed sense of purpose about my project.


Tomorrow is the big day.  There will be many events going on around the country, and the world.  Check out the WWD2013 site for an event near you!


Countdown to World Water Day 2!!


Today’s Topic is: Virtual Water

POP Quiz: The world is running out of water because we

1) are thirsty

2) are hungry

3) take too many baths and showers

How much water do you use a day?  Let’s count it out.  They say you should drink about 8 glasses of water a day.  A low-flow shower head uses 2 gallons per minutes, so about 20 gallons for a 10 minute shower.  3 gallons per flush.  Another gallon for cooking.  And and let’s say 50 gallons total for washing clothes and dishes.  Depending on how many times you flush the toilet a day, that’s roughly 100 gallons day.  But that’s not all.    What about all of the water it takes to irrigate and grow corn?  And the amount of corn it takes to raise dairy and beef cattle?  In all, it takes about 2000 gallons of water to make just one pound of beef.  A pound of cotton (enough for about three shirts) costs 1200 gallons.  Just the steel for a car uses 32,000 gallons.  That’s leaving out all of the glass, plastic, upholstery and paint.  I don’t know the total.  All in all, the average person living in America uses about 3000 gallons a day (about 1000 in Japan).   A lot more than you though, huh?

So, in a round-about way, the answer is 2) the world is running out of water because we are hungry.  Apart from the water we use at home, we use thousands of gallons to make the things we eat and use everyday.  They call this “virtual water.”  I don’t like this name because virtual water is actually “real water” for someone, somewhere.  And who are these people?  People living in the arid regions of Arizona?  California?  Try Egypt, China, Australia, some of the driest places on Earth.

Surprisingly, there is lots we can do to prevent water stresses around the world.  Replace beef with chicken, or better yet, eat more vegetables.  Buying locally produced products ensures you aren’t stealing someone else’s water halfway around the globe.  Practice the 3-Rs.  Lot’s of water goes into making new things.  Reusing something eliminates that and helps keep water in the ground, where it belongs.

With a little bit of care, each one of us can save thousands of gallons everyday!!!

2 gallons for a bottle of water

Countdown to World Water Day 1!!!


It’s that time of year again.  This Friday, March 22nd is WORLD WATER DAY!

To celebrate, I will post something about water here everyday until World Water Day 2013 (only 3 more days…shoulda started earlier).

Today’s topic is: BOTTLE versus TAP!

Now, as someone that believes in NOT harming the environment and champions for universal access to safe drinking water, I don’t have to tell you that I’m pro TAP.  I’m not going to pretend that the below is not biased, but they are in-fact, facts.  So, I’ll report.  You decide.

FACT 1: TAP water is safer than bottled water.  BOTTLED water is not actually water in the eyes of the law.  It is a consumer beverage, like orange juice, or coke.  Imagine is all the Fanta production lines had to be tested for bacteria and fecal matter (fancy word for poop) in the morning, before noon, around noon, afternoon, evening, night, late night and early morning.  The costs would be prohibitive.  So beverages, including bottled water are only tested for things that could make us sick a few times a month, at best.  Municipal water supplies are tested constantly day and night, continuously being optimized for safety, quality and cost.

As a side note: 90% of bottled water in Sri Lanka fails coliform tests (another fancy word for poop).

FACT 2: Ever notice that plasticy taste in your bottled water?  Maybe not since we’re all so used to it nowadays.  You know what it is?  It’s plastic.  It’s easier to notice when the water is warm, and gets worse if it’s been sitting in the sun for a while because the sun’s energy can break down components of plastic which leak into the water.  A bottle that was left in the car for a day or two is a good example.  You are drinking plastic.  Organic compounds like plastic, dioxins (burned plastics) and pesticides (DDT etc) are known to cause cancer, birth defects and organ damage.

FACT 3: Bottled water generally costs 2000 to 10,000 times more than tap water.  And it’s no surprise.  By some estimates, it takes 2000 to 3000 times more energy to get a gallon of water bottled to your mouth.  And it takes about 3 oz of oil to make, ship, fill and ship again a 12 oz  bottle of water.  That’s a quarter of the bottle.  Imagine the next time you buy a bottle of water, that the amount of oil it took to get that to you would fill the bottom 1/4 of that bottle.  Unbelievable.

FACT 4: But the biggest difference between bottled and tap water is…there is none, sometimes.  Up to a quarter of bottled water is taken from municipal supplies (fancy word for tap water).  I’ll admit, lots of bottled water comes from wells and aquifers.  But wait a minute.  That’s where most municipal water plants get their water too, wells and aquifers.  And as mentioned before, municipal water is held to a higher standard and tested much more frequently.

Here is a video by TheCocaColaCompany about Dasani Bottled water: http://youtu.be/9EnxwFCe56I

If you don’t have 2 minutes to watch it, here are the Cliff Notes.  First, and foremost, notice that it is labeled “filtered and purified water.”  NOT natural or spring water.  Dead giveaway that this is just ordinary tap water.  At 0:53, they say they filter out “impurities such as Chlorine.”  Another dead giveaway that they are just using safe, chlorinated tap water.  Most of the treatment has been done for them already.  Then, they add some flavorings, package it in toxic plastic and ship it hundreds and thousands of miles around the country to your local supermarket.  Keep in mind that just the gas for driving there to pick up that 24 pack of Dasani would cost hundreds of times more than the same volume of tap water.

Another side note: Most bottled water in Sri Lanka is sourced from Bored and Shallow Wells.  This is also where most rural inhabitants get their water, and many water treatment plants as well.


Let’s say gas prices are US$3.50 per gallon.  Would you pay 2000 times that (US$7000 per gallon) for crude oil for your car?  That’s essentially what you are doing with every bottle of water you buy.  Everything has its time and place, including polymerous containers of slightly treated H2O.  Replacing affordable, safe, tapped water is not one of them.