Water scarcity is a real problem in Mexico City, and due to existing gender inequality women bare the brunt of the costs of a lack of water. This manifests itself in everything from laundry to buying potable water, both are time consuming endeavours in places with water scarcity. Mexico City launched a program a few years ago to naturalize rain water collection while also enhancing their rain barrel water collection for homes. These changes combined have had a very positive impact on water usage and gender equality in the city.
For years engineers tried to prevent flooding, then they realized they can’t stop nature. Now instead of trying to stop it, we try to mitigate flooding by creating spaces that can absorb a lot of water (parks along rivers are an example of this). Still, these attempts don’t always work and with increasing instability in our climate it’s getting harder to deal with more extreme flooding instances. This is where a new startup, Floodmapp, fits in. They are using machine learning and AI to improve how we understand flooding instead of the traditional physics-driven modelling.
The company’s premise is simple: We have the tools to build real-time flooding models today, but we just have chosen not to take advantage of them. Water follows gravity, which means that if you know the topology of a place, you can predict where the water will flow to. The challenge has been that calculating second-order differential equations at high resolution remains computationally expensive.
Murphy and Prosser decided to eschew the traditional physics-based approach that has been popular in hydrology for decades for a completely data-based approach that takes advantage of widely available techniques in machine learning to make those calculations much more palatable. “We do top down what used to be bottoms up,” Murphy said. “We have really sort of broken the speed barrier.” That work led to the creation of DASH, the startup’s real-time flood model.
Access to clean water is essentially for good health, yet many around the world lack access to save, clean, drinkable water. Researchers have found a way to clean water more efficiently than previous systems by essentially cleaning water at the source using a new catalyst. The catalyst cleans the water by creating hydrogen peroxide where it needs to be used by running electricity through special metals. This good because it requires less energy and resources to clean large amounts of water.
The catalyst-based method was shown to be 10,000,000 times more potent at killing the bacteria than an equivalent amount of the industrial hydrogen peroxide, and over 100,000,000 times more effective than chlorination, under equivalent conditions.
In addition to this, the catalyst-based method was shown to be more effective at killing the bacteria and viruses in a shorter space of time compared to the other two compounds.
“We now have proven one-step process where, besides the catalyst, inputs of contaminated water and electricity are the only requirements to attain disinfection.
For a good future we need to respect water at its source and in our built environments. You have heard of a green roof, a white roof, and now we have a blue roof. These roofs all have the same ultimate goal in mind: do less harm to (or maybe even better) their local environment. Blue roofs focus on water management and therefore a best located near wetlands and shores. Blue roof can regulate water runoff on to into lakes and streams while protecting sewer systems from being overwhelmed.
“With climate change, you won’t get the same amount of precipitation but you get it in a shorter duration in bigger, shorter storms,” Taylor said. “If you get water faster than you designed for, then it fills up and it starts backing up and you get flooding. And flooding is very expensive wherever that occurs.”
A blue roof system stores rainwater and slowly releases it using flow-control devices or structures, from customized trays to existing building risers that cause water to dam up. Together, they act as a temporary sponge, collecting and then releasing the water over time.
The stored water also provides the building with a cooling effect through evaporation, as well as additional water for reuse.
Today is World Water Day and what better way to celebrate than by talking about sewage?
The Stockholm Environment Institute, an international non-profit research and policy organization, released a report on how we can better handle human waste. When it comes to basic sanitation there is plenty of good news including that only 26% of the global population has access to sanitation which is down from 50% in 1990. The report this year looks at how we can use sewage in the circular economy including turning into power to fuel buses.
“We need to reevaluate our view on wastewater and human excreta. Today’s approach to disposal means lost opportunities in the form of nutrients and organic matter which are being flushed away,” says Kim Andersson, Senior Expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of Sanitation, Wastewater Management and Sustainability: From Waste Disposal to Resource Recovery. “Instead, we could use these materials to improve soils or produce clean burning, low carbon biogas. If cleaned properly, wastewater can even be turned into drinking water. Reusing this resource will generate new jobs and business models.”