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A New Normal?: What We Need To Take Away From the Cape Town Water Crisis

Manak Suri

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The Cape Town water crisis is still very much in the news and there is a lot that needs to be learnt from what has been happening in the city where 4 million people are actively struggling to push backward Day Zero: the day when the city runs out of its water resources and water supply is shut all across the city. If you have been keeping up with the story, you’d probably know that Day Zero was set by the city’s authorities to occur early in April. With a combination of supervised action and good fortune, recent estimates have pushed the date by nearly two months, with Day Zero now set to occur some time in early June. However, it is still too early to celebrate for the citizens of Cape Town since the dams that account for the availability of water to the city are still at alarmingly low levels, with analysts wondering whether the increased scarcity of the essential natural resource should be treated as a new normal for the region or not. The mere thought of the same spells an apocalyptic warning for mankind, for it has been known for quite some time that the crisis being faced by Capetonians is not unique and soon the citizens of many major cities across the globe could be facing the same, albeit with differing levels of severity.

A Game of Numbers: What the Future Holds

We are made to learn in the earlier years of our schooling that water makes up nearly 70% of the earth’s surface but only 3% of it is freshwater, that is, water that we can drink. Couple that with the population boom witnessed over decades in developed and developing countries all over the world and you have statistics which suggest that a quarter of the largest 500 cities in the world are dealing with issues related to scarcity of water. Moreover, a warning has been issued by the United Nations World Water Development Report that by the year 2030 the global demand for drinking water would exceed the global supply by roughly 40% due to a combination of climate change, growth in population, and actions of humans: a daunting figure at the very least. Even today, more than one eighth of the human population lack access to safe drinking water, and on top of that another 2.7 billion people find water to be scarce at least one month of the year. Where this puts us 12 years down the line is by all standards a circumstance not pretty, and what this means for the cities touted to be next in line after Cape Town is pretty clear: save water as if your life depends on it, because it does, as put forth by former mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille on tackling the issue in her city.

The Next Cape Town: An Inevitability?

11 major cities have been identified as being the most likely to be affected by water crises, if any in the near future. The list also includes the south Indian city of Bangalore. Bangalore, known as technological hub or the silicon plateau of India, has often been touted as the country’s IT capital, and that is precisely why it is now so high up in the list of cities struggling to manage its water supply. Rapid property developments in the city along with the huge influx of people to fill up these spaces have put up immense pressure on the city’s antiquated plumbing and sewer systems. The whole system is so ineffective that it has been estimated through a national report itself that the city loses half of its water meant for drinking as waste. Rampant pollution over the years has just added to the huge challenge. Of all the lakes in the city, none are clean enough to be used for drinking or even bathing, and water from most of the lakes can be at best only used for industrial cooling and irrigation.

The list contains a total of 4 Asian cities out of 11 including Bangalore. The remaining three are also the capital cities of three of the largest Asian countries in terms of population: Beijing; the capital of China, Tokyo; the Japanese capital, and Jakarta; capital of Indonesia. While China is inhabited by nearly 20% of the world’s population, it is home to only 7% of the world’s reserves of fresh water. Like Bangalore, Beijing also suffers from high levels of water pollution which has attracted the attention of the Chinese government over the past few years. The remainder of the list includes the cities of Sao Paulo in Brazil, the Egyptian capital Cairo, the Russian capital of Moscow, Istanbul in Turkey, Mexico City, Miami: the only city from the US to make the list, and surprisingly even London, the capital of the United Kingdom. London receives an annual rainfall of only about 600mm and is dependent for most of its supply of water on the rivers Thames and Lea. It is estimated to face supply problems by the year 2025, and by the year 2040, London is on track to face serious supply shortages.

You Don’t Have to Wait, You Have to Start

The threats of water shortages are not new when you consider for how long the warnings have been in place, in the same places for all this while. Even if this is all new to you right now, there are lessons that have to be learnt from what is happening around us and it is the need of the hour to be aware and to be responsible for your actions and for those of others around you. We shouldn’t have to wait till the going gets as bad as it did in Cape Town when we can do better. The power to control/minimise the effects of water shortages is within you, and through your example and your actions it is extended to others around you. Take it upon yourself to be the person to lead the change, attaching all the more power to yourself as well.

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A student of economics with a keen eye for developments in the geopolitical sphere, Manak is a curious individual with a penchant for writing about anything that makes him ponder long enough.

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How To Save Water At Work

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When you’re at home, you know how to save water and do better for your house. Living in a green way is easy at home, but what about at work? When you are not the owner of a business premises, it’s not always easy to be green. However, there are things that you can do as a business that will ensure that you are analyzing your water efficiency and you can then reduce the water use in your workplace.

Below, we’ve put together some of the best ways that you can conserve water in your workplace. You can continue your green efforts in the workplace this way!

Get Your Management Team On Your Side

If you are planning to start water conservation efforts at work, you need the rest of your management team on your side. They need to be happy to work with you and ensure that your water conservation efforts are successful. If you’re working as one team, you’re far more likely to save the planet a little aggravation and you can successfully prevent flooding, too.

Research 

You need to know the best ways to conserve water, and we’re willing to bet that you haven’t looked at whether you can get permission from your landlord about installing water tanks from  watertankfactory.com.au/water-tanks-dalby/. You need to research what you can and cannot do in terms of saving water in any way possible. 

Put Together A List

You need to know why you are saving water and what it will be for. Filtering rainwater for free, drinkable water in the office is a genius way to keep employees cool. You can also use it for the external garden of your business, as a way to flush the toilets and you can also use it to clean the floors. 

Know How You Already Use Your Water

How does your business consume water? Where is it mostly used through the working week? If you can ensure that you are using your water properly, you will be able to encourage your staff to do the same thing. Conservation only works when everyone is on board!

Bring In The Experts

Do you have leaky faucets? Are you dealing with pipes that are broken or cracked in any way? Any of these things can cause your water payments to shoot right up. Bringing in the experts to assess your current water systems and evaluate your pipework is the best way to ensure that you are saving water. You can stop the waste when you have someone in to assess what you are dealing with.

Save It

By buying rainwater tanks and saving the rainfall, you can use less of the water from the faucets and the pipes in the building. You can add a good filtration system and this will help you to get rid of the nasties in the water and reduce the contaminants that you could be facing.

Water conservation is not just for your house. And now you know how to get it right!

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Ten Totally Awesome Ways To Save Water

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Living on a planet that’s mostly made up of water means that water is our biggest commodity here on Earth. We use it every single day whether we are showering, washing dishes or clothes, watering the garden or even using the toilet. In our homes, we use a lot of water and we rarely think about what we’re using. Most countries using water are fortunate enough not to have to worry about how much they are using each day, while there are other places in the world that do everything that they canfor the tiniest possible drop of water. 

In fact, half of the world’s global population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, so it’s our responsibility to save as much water as possible and not waste it. Water waste depletes one of our biggest resources, and it makes sense to save water – and money – as much as we can. When you are running a home, the amount of water that you use has to be a concern for you as you are paying for the service of clean water piped into your home. Much in the way you wouldn’t stand there switching the light on and off to waste electricity, you need to learn how you can save as much water as possible. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at ten awesome ways you can do just that. 

Switch It Off

Such a simple thing to do, and yet it’s one of the things that people find hardest to do! Leaving faucets running while brushing teeth is not ideal and you can save tanks of water every year by switching the faucet off until you need it again. It’s the same as running the shower for too long when you are waiting for it to warm up and you to get in – give it five seconds and get in! You should also think about limiting the time that you spend in the shower to conserve the water you are running. If you see a water source running, turn it off and you’ll be saving energy, too.

Use Composting For Food

If you have leftover food, don’t throw it down the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal wastes a lot of water and you can save yourself the money and the water waste by throwing the old food scraps on the compost pile and giving the rest to the dog. The garbage disposal relies on water running to break down the food, so you are going to be making a big difference by switching it off.

Wrap Your Pipes

While it’s helpful to purchase slimline water tanks to catch any dripping water, you can save a lot of water by insulating your pipes. In the cooler weather, pipes have a tendency to crack and split, which makes them leak water all over the place. It also takes hot water a lot longer to flow through the pipes because they’re too cold to manage. So, if you insulate your pipes properly, you can prevent these two ways to waste water. By all means, get those water tanks regardless: you could always use new ways to save water!

Repair Cracks

We just mentioned that colder weather can make the pipes crack, and it’s true that this happens easily. Instead of wasting both water and money on this, why not start looking at getting those leaks repaired? It’s not just pipes, either. Leaky garden hoses, faucets, shower heads and broken toilets can all cause leaks in the system. Bring in an expert if you can’t fix it yourself!

Don’t Do Half Measures

Washing the clothes in the house can be time-consuming, but if you’re constantly putting on half-loads of laundry, you are going to waste an awful lot of water. It’s’ not just clothes: half-loads for dishwashers are just as detrimental to the water supply in your home. Wait until the loads are full before you run them, and you’ll be able to save a ton of water. 

Embrace Handwashing

Believe it or not, you don’t need to keep the water running when you wash dishes and clothes. You can fill a sink with water and submerge whatever you’re washing in the soapy water. All you need is a plug, and you can make sure that the sink doesn’t drain out while you are washing up. There’s no need to run a whole dishwasher just for one or two items.

Adjust Garden Hoses & Sprinklers

Whether you are working on a commercial garden or on your own, you need to adjust the hoses and sprinklers to ensure that you aren’t wasting any water. Put them all on automatic timers so that you can ensure that they turn off after the right time and not just keep watering! There’s no need to waste more money on watering the garden than necessary

Know Where The Shut-Off Is

Sometimes, you can make all the adjustments in the world and still find a leak in the house. You need to know where the water shut-off switches and valves are so that in the event of a leak that you cannot find or control, you can stop the flow of water. The last thing that you need is a street full of water and a flood threatening your basement. So, work out how to turn off the water and you can save yourself a lot of money and waste at the same time.

Go For Low Maintenance

If your garden is fully lawned and landscaped, you need to look at how you can make it more low maintenance. It’s lovely to have a lot of greenery but if you are going to be risking needing to water the garden almost continuously, then you could swap to artificial grass that doesn’t need your attention as often. There are plenty of plants who don’t use as much water, either. These are the plants you want to have in your garden if you are looking at saving water.

Choose Low-Flow

Low-flow toilets and faucets can help you to save water without even trying. You can even change your showerhead to a slow-flow option and ensure that you are saving water without any of the impact on your daily activities.

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Nuclear Power and Other Power Sources: How Do They Stack Up?

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Most everyone dreads the idea of nuclear war because of the abject devastation it would inflict on planet Earth. Yet few connect the dots between nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the same energy that makes atomic bombs and nuclear missiles so threatening is also harnessed to power electrical grids and other forms of infrastructure. When properly contained, nuclear power is the cleanest and most abundant energy source available. With all the concern over climate change and environmental degradation, it begs a huge question: why is the United States of America not generating more — much more — nuclear energy?

Capital Investment vs. Production Costs

Looking at it from one angle, a larger nuclear energy capacity is a no-brainer. Making electricity from nuclear sources is cheaper than using coal, gas or petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels. On average, using 2011 cash value, electricity cost 21.56, 3.23 and 4.51 cents per kilowatt-hour from petroleum, coal and natural gas, respectively. Nuclear power came in at 2.10 cents per kW according to data received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yet these simple ongoing production costs fail to tell the full story.

To up the power generating capacity of nuclear sources, additional plants are necessary. Some argue that the savings in electricity production means the nuclear utilities pay for themselves. What, though, are they paying for…and how long until the payoff? Engineering and constructing a nuclear power plant is very expensive. In fact, 74 percent of the cost of nuclear-sourced electricity is in the capital costs of creating the physical facility and technology for that purpose. Some estimates range drom six-billion to nine-billion dollars. Others estimate over $5,300 per kW before it begins paying for itself…in 20 to 30 years. These figures make the prospect cost-prohibitive to many decision makers in government and business.

Plentiful Energy at Low Costs without Nuclear Power

Were we living back during the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s, the urgency factor would be much higher concerning nuclear power in the US. The abundance of discoveries and advancement of technology have made fossil fuels more available at modest prices. Coal and petroleum are each low compared to their peaks. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas is ever more accessible and affordable. Though people may worry about the environmental effects of burning these substances, they are likely to continue usage to maintain a decent househild cash flow.

Still, even the renewable alternatives to traditional fuels are dropping in price. In terms of sheer volume, wind turbines and solar panels — for instance — have yet to match the output of fossil fuels, much less the overwhelming energy yield of nuclear. Nevertheless, their contribution to production in the United States is growing while their financial outlays are shrinking. Added to the two aforementioned renewable sources, hydro-electric power, biomass and geothermal each come in under 10 cents per kW. According to Forbes magazine, this makes them highly competitive with oil and gas financially.

Lack of Knowledge

The absence of urgency mentioned above relates to a third factor about why Americans are not expanding their nuclear production capacity. Generations have passed that are not well-informed about the potential and reality of nuclear power. A dangerous accident at Pennsylvania’s Three-Mile Island facility in the 1970s scared public officials and policy makers into backing off of a pro-nuclear agenda. The improvements and replication found in today’s safety protocols have been ineffective in re-booting a national conversation. Granted, the United States operates 97 nuclear reactors, more than any other country. Yet only four more are under design and/or construction compared to 20 for China.

Furthermore, France relies on nuclear for three-quarters of its electricity; several eastern European nations, half; South Korea, in excess of 30 percent; while the U.S. can claim around 20 percent. Clearly, the public knowledge regarding how clean and abundant atomic energy is meager; awareness of past accidents — including the Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl meltdowns of recent decades were, by contrast, reported widely by media outlets.

Advocates of nuclear power have work to do to bring Americans on board. Otherwise, dirtier, cheaper sources will continue to reign.

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