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  • Water Testing Made Simple Using Pills

    A research team from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, has come up with an ingenious solution that allows water to be tested on-site rather than having samples collected and sent to a lab for analysis, which is not only a painfully slow process but also laborious and expensive. So instead of collecting and sending water samples to a lab, the lab can in effect be taken to the water source, empowering people from all walks of life to literally test the waters before they drink, which could potentially save lives.

    water testing

    By adapting the technology used in dissolving breath strips, the researchers have condensed the complex chemistry that is required to test water quality into a pill form. Now, if you need to know whether the water in your well is safe to drink, simply pop a pill into a vial filled with water from your well, give it a good shake; if the water changes color you have your answer – instantly, on the spot.

    This development could potentially provide access to a quick, simple and cost affective method of testing water quality to people all over the world. The technology could have significant public health benefits by offering a simple solution for testing drinking water in remote areas and in developing countries where water testing infrastructure is lacking.

    “We got the inspiration from the supermarket,” says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project. Fellow team member, Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering, got his 'Eureka!' moment when he came across some dissolving breath strips whilst shopping at his local store, realizing that the material used in the breath strips could be used in other applications.

    The scientists have created a method of storing precise amounts of active ingredients and enzymes into pills consisting of the same natural substance used in dissolving breath strips, which now makes lab-quality water testing technology easily accessible to people who need to know whether their drinking water source is contaminated or safe to drink.

    “This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form,” says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the technology was developed. “The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water.”

    The substance, known as pullulan, turns into a solid form when dry, protecting sensitive chemical agents from exposure to oxygen and changes in temperature that can destroy them within hours. Previously, these sensitive agents had to preserved by keeping them in cold storage and shipping them in vials surrounded by large blocks of dry ice, which was not only costly, but also very inconvenient.

    This newly developed method, which is described in a paper published online in the European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also has the potential to be used in other applications, such as food packaging that could change color if the contents become spoiled.

    “Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?” Brennan asks. “The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough.”

    This newly developed method allow us to store the same substances practically anywhere in pill form for long periods of time without the need for complex refrigeration and cooling. The pills are cheap to produce and can be used by anyone who needs to test the water in their well for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals or e.coli, for example. With this simple water testing solution, people will be empowered to test their drinking water themselves and if contaminants are detected, they can implement measures such as using a water filter to remove the contaminants to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

    Journal Reference:

    Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, Kevin Pennings, Vincent Leung, Meng Liu, Carmen Carrasquilla, Balamurali Kannan, Yingfu Li, Robert Pelton, John D. Brennan, Carlos D. M. Filipe. Pullulan Encapsulation of Labile Biomolecules to Give Stable Bioassay Tablets. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403222

  • Using Blue, Green and Gray Water to Improve Water Security

    In last weeks post we looked at the problem of dwindling water resources in light of climate change. Water security is an issue, not just because there is likely to be less water available in a warmer, drier climate, but also because as the world population grows, so too does the demand for water. A growing world population also requires food resources – it is estimated that food production will have to increase by approximately 70% by 2050 to satisfy the needs of the growing global population. In order to meet this demand, agriculture will also place increasing pressure on our dwindling water resources, which will also be in demand from urban areas, industrial users, and for recreation.

    With more and more people depending on a limited supply of water, it is imperative that we manage our water resources prudently, looking at innovative ways to utilize the resource more efficiently. The implementation of integrated water management plans that make use of  'blue,' 'green', and 'gray' water can go a long way to improving water security.

    Irrigation fields

    Let's take a look at what these different colors mean, the role that each of these types of water play in the grand scheme of things, and why they are all vital to water security.

    Blue Water

    Blue water refers to water that is present in rivers, lakes, underground aquifers and reservoirs. This water is used for a multitude of purposes including drinking water, water supplied to domestic households and businesses, and it is also used in agriculture to irrigate crops. Because our freshwater reserves are limited, it is essential that we protect and conserve these resources and use them sparingly.

    Green Water

    Green water refers to water that is held within the soil which is available for plants and microorganisms within the soil to utilize. This water can be absorbed by plant roots, then used by plants for growth before being released back into the atmosphere. Green water is a resource that is frequently overlooked in terms of crop growth, and this is an area that can more optimally utilized in future water management planning.

    Gray Water

    Gray water refers to wastewater that has been used for some other purpose and has typically been degraded or fouled as a result. Gray water can originate from domestic household use, commercial/business use, or industrial use, and while it is generally treated to remove hazardous contaminants before it is discharged, it may still harbor some impurities. Reusing gray water to irrigate agricultural crops will not only reduce the amount of blue water that is drawn from freshwater reserves, but also increase the amount of green water that is available in soils for plants to utilize.

    These three types of water sources will be the topic of discussion during a symposium  “Blue Waves, Green Dreams, and Shades of Gray: Perspectives On Water” that is going to be held on Tuesday, 5th November as part of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, which is taking place from 3-5 November in Tampa, Florida. The theme of this year's conference is “Water, Food, Energy, & Innovation for a Sustainable World”.

    All three of these water sources – blue, green, and gray –  have to be protected and optimized in order for agriculture to rise to the challenge of feeding more than 9 billion people by 2050 while still leaving sufficient water for other uses. Rattan Lal, presider of the symposium, sums it up aptly when he states “There is no substitute for water.”

  • Interagency Report on Short-term Water Management Decision Making

    According to a newly released report, “Short-Term Water Management Decisions: User Needs for Improved Climate, Weather, and Hydrologic Information,” published by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in order for us to adapt to the impacts of climate change, managers need to have the capacity to make short-term water management decisions based on their understanding of hydroclimate monitoring, short-term prediction, and how this information supports future water management decision making. Consequently, agencies responsible for water management need to have the capacity to address these issues.

    water management

    The report highlights the need for NGO's, local and tribal agencies and organizations, together with state and Federal agencies, to work side by side to support those responsible for managing water resources in the wake of changing climatic conditions. The report identifies four key areas:  1) Monitoring Product Needs, 2) Forecasting Product Needs, 3) Understanding and Using Information Products in Water Management, and 4) Information Services Enterprise.

    “Climate change is adding to the challenges we face in managing a multitude of issues, including water supply, water quality, flood risk, wastewater, aquatic ecosystems, and energy production,” explains Reclamation Commissioner, Michael L. Connor. “Meeting these challenges requires close collaboration among water resource management agencies, operational information service providers, stakeholders and the scientific community.”

    “This document describes the short-term needs of the water management community for monitoring and forecast information and tools to support operational decisions,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works Steven L. Stockton. “Large water resources systems with water supply goals have very different needs from smaller systems that primarily service flood control purposes. Because of those differences, having a unified report such as this one communicates not only the national-level water resource needs but the local interactions between the water resource management agencies and the weather, climate and hydrologic service and information providers.”

    The report aims to identify areas where water resource management can be improved by communicating the needs of water resource managers to researchers and information providers so that water management agencies can be provided with the information they need to improve planning and management of water resources.

    The report, the second in a series, was compiled by a team from the Climate Change and Water Working Group, made up of technical specialists from the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation with NOAA's National Weather Service. The first report, “Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning and Management,” which was released in January 2011, addressed the need for long-term water management and planning in the face of climate change, particularly the need for information and tools to aid planning and decision making with regards to long-term water resource management.

  • America's Aging Sewer System Threatens Beachgoers and Swimmers

    Your Berkey water filter has been shown to effectively purify even untreated water. But unfortunately, your water filter can’t protect you from water contamination if you swim in it.

    Water Quality State and county authorities issued 24,091 beach closing and advisory days in 2010 due to pollution, primarily from sewage and animal waste, which could expose swimmers to a host of waterborne illnesses.

    Sewage Contamination From Cities and Farms

    According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the advocacy organization that calculated the beach-closing statistic, pollution from leaky sewer pipes or overflows during heavy rains are a primary source of human sewage pollution in waterways.

    In many urban areas, rain runoff from roofs and roads is directed into the same pipes that carry household sewage to the local water treatment plant. During very heavy storms, the system can be overwhelmed and rainwater and untreated sewage simply overflows into local waterways. In more rural areas, poorly contained animal agriculture operations allow rain to wash waste into waterways.

    Surfers and Swimmers Get Sick from Contaminated Beach Water

    The latest issue of Surfer magazine reports: “Most official county advisories warn to avoid contact with the water for 72 hours after a heavy rain, a three-day buffer to allow the collective runoff to thin to healthy levels.”

    Many surfers don’t wait that long, either because they don’t realize they should or they think they tougher than the bacteria in the water. “Surfers sometimes believe that they are immune to ocean-related illness, because they have been surfing that same spot for years, or that the water quality is not as bad as it is hyped up to be,” explains Paloma Aguirre, spokesperson for the San Diego-based environmental organization WiLDCOAST.

    Even Sandcastles Can Harbor Beach Bacteria

    According to NRDC, it’s not just surfers who are at risk. Swimmers and other beach-goers, especially pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system need to heed warnings and stay out of the water when bacteria levels rise. Not only that, minimizing exposure to beach sand after an advisory is issued may be just as important.

    “Bacteria concentrate in sand as water rises and recedes with the tides, leaving both the wet sand and the dry sand just beyond it more heavily contaminated than the water. Because of this, it is most important to keep beach sand out of the mouths of toddlers. Keeping your hands out of it or washing them after playing in the sand is also a good idea,” explains the NRDC website.

    Pollution Illnesses on The Rise

    Pollution at U.S. beaches exposes swimmers to a range of waterborne illnesses and may cause stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems.

    It is hard to determine the number of gastroenteritis cases or other diseases caused by swimming in polluted water. There is no national reporting system in the United States to help epidemiologists track national trends, but the Centers for Disease Control estimate that illness from contaminated beach water is on the rise. One study conducted by the agency concluded that 10 percent of Great Lakes beachgoers get sick after swimming.

    Fixing Sewers and Protecting the Public from Pollution

    RDC and other public health advocates are calling for a variety of reforms that include increased funding for sewer treatment plant upgrades and sewage system repair. The public could also be better protected by improving water quality testing speed, accuracy, and public notification systems.

    Read more:

    Fixing Leaky Pipes Could Triple U.S. Water Bills
    Green Infrastructure Protects Rivers Around the United States
    E. Coli Contamination of Drinking Water

  • America's Top Snowboarders Want You To Drink Water

    Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster Energy and Rockstar have become popular among fans of snowboarding in the United States, with drink companies advertising at events and sponsoring athletes. After professional snowboarders Bryan Fox and Austin Smith were approached by a company about promoting their product, the duo decided to do something about their concerns that the added sugar, stimulants and other ingredients in those drinks weren't just a bad substitute for water but might actually be dangerous.

    Drink Water Gives Voice to Energy Drink Wary Snowboarders

    Fox and Smith began sporting their own "drink water" logo on their boards and apparel. Before long, they found themselves leading a campaign. “It’s been crazy to see the overwhelming support since we started this, that we’re not the only ones,” Smith told the New York Times.

    The Drink Water campaign now sells t-shirts, stickers and hoodies with the following explanation: "Drink Water is a friendly reminder to drink water."

    "If you love snowboarding or some other healthy activity that defines many decisions in your life, you are likely a choice target-consumer for companies that sell ‘energy drinks.’ Maybe you, like us, started to feel uncomfortable about how effective these companies have become at encouraging young people to consume their product: beverages of caffeine, sodium, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even some mystery chemicals about which little is known."

     Drink Water Campaign

    Energy Drinks Marketed to Kids

    Fox and Smith are not the only ones raising concerns about energy drinks. Parents and doctors around the country have raised the alarm about the host of sugary drinks marketed to kids that contribute to obesity, diabetes, even ailments like kidney stones, once unheard of in kids. According to SugaryDrinkFacts.org, “from 2008 to 2010 ad exposure for regular soda doubled for children and teens, and energy drink exposure increased by 20 to 50%.”

    The New York Times last year reported on an emerging trend of kidney stones showing up in in kindergarteners, in part because they were drinking high-sodium sports drinks instead of water. Sports drinks were designed to replenish nutrients lost by top athletes during hard exercise, but they are now marketed in lunch-box size packages and found as an alternative to soda in school vending machines.

    The big difference between sodas or sports drinks and the kind of energy drinks that inspired the Drink Water campaign is that, by labeling energy drinks as dietary supplements instead of food, companies avoid a host of Food & Drug Administration regulations about truth in advertising. The companies are not required to substantiate the claims on its packaging.

    Drink Water Campaign Touches a Nerve

    SugaryDrinkFacts.org reports that 5 Hour Energy ranked among the top 3 beverages most advertised to kids and the #1 most advertised to teens. While energy drinks are considered safe in reasonable quantities by the generally healthy adult population, Fox and Smith are hearing anecdotal evidence that overdoses are more and more common. On their blog they recount a conversation with a fellow postal customer after explaining their campaign:

    "Lady: Oh my God, thank God! I work at the county Poison Control Center, and for years, when we got calls on caffeine overdoses, we never asked a follow up question for specifics. Now, we have a separate option for “Energy Drink Overdoses.” I just had a mom call in last week, and her 8 year old had drunk a 6 pack of *******. She called because the kid was light headed, was sick to his stomach and his heart was racing, and you know what I told her? Give him a lots of water to flush out his system. We get calls every week on this stuff. Crazy."

    The campaign donates 10 percent of their profits to Water.org, a nonprofit co-founded by the actor Matt Damon that provides clean water and sanitation in Africa, southern Asia and Central America. (BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com also supports and donates to Water.Org)

    If you are looking for a water filtration solution while you are on the go, we encourage you to check out the Sport Berkey.

  • Buying Bottled Water - Do You Know What You're Getting?

    When reaching out for a bottle of water in a supermarket you expect to get a safe, high value drink that replenishes your bodily fluids and supplies the organism with valuable minerals. But is this always the case? The truth may surprise you.

    Nowadays, consumers have become more and more aware of their rights and have requested manufacturers to provide information that enable them to make good choices. Surprisingly, the bottled water industry finds this already established trend difficult to accept and follow.

    As bottled water can cost up to 1,900 times more than tap water, is it too much too expect to be well-informed on the product? What is the water’s origin? Has it been purified? If so, what techniques have been used in this process? Has it been tested for quality? Have the tests found any contaminants? In many cases this basic information is difficult to find on the label or on the producer’s website.

    EWG's Bottled Water Study

    Environmental Working Group (EWG) carries out an annual survey on the level of transparency of information among the bottled water brands in the United States. In 2011 the group has reviewed 173 bottled water products and compared the results with those from the previous year.

    It has turned out, that nine of the best-selling brands, including Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nestle, do not answer at least one of the above questions. The survey results have revealed that 18% of the products do not provide the location of water source, 32% of brands do not disclose any information on the treatment or quality of water, and 13% of product are supported by ‘water quality reports’ that lack actual testing results.

    Comparing the results with previous year findings, very slow progress was noticed. Over 50% of the surveyed brands did not improve, or even worse, included less information than in 2010. Only 39 brands scored better in information transparency in 2011 versus 2010. Even the best scored brads were not faultless. Believe it or not, some of them provided out dated water tests from 2008!

    Bottled Water Vs Tap Water

    It may be a surprise, but most companies producing bottled water source it from municipal tap (Food and Water Watch data). Moreover, the plastic material used for making bottles may incorporate chemical substances like BPA (Bisphenol A) that can leach into drinking water.

    According to federal regulations bottled water is not much safer than tap water, as the chemical pollution standards are almost the same. As so many bottled water producers keep information on water quality to themselves, it is possible that most of the time you are paying for bottled tap water without even knowing it.

    In addition to water quality arguments, there are serious environmental reasons for giving up bottled water. Between 2004 and 2009 the consumption of bottled water in the United States increased by 24%. It is estimated that every 27 hours U.S. citizens drink enough bottled water to circle the equator with empty bottles and each year more than 4 million of plastic containers go to the landfill nationwide. These are not good statistics!

    Producing bottled water also has a high carbon footprint price – it takes 20,000 times more energy to produce bottled water than the same amount of tap water. In the United States, the production and transportation of bottled water is responsible for the level of CO2 emission comparable to that produced by two million cars.

    Drink Filtered Tap Water

    What are EWG’s recommendations then? Their main call is: Drink Filtered Tap Water.

    A good quality domestic filter system lasts over 10 years. It can save you money and allow you to do your part in contributing to a cleaner environment. There is a wide variety of water filter systems that can be used indoors, outdoors or even during travelling. Good quality systems successfully remove bacteria, chlorine, organic solvents, VOCs, lead, mercury, nitrates and nitrites as well as other harmful substances. We believe the berkey water filter provides the highest quality filtration for the lowest initial and ongoing maintenance costs. There is also a different berkey water filter model available to accommodate every family size. Here's a comparison of berkey and other top consumer water filters on the market. Regardless of what model or supplier you choose, they should provide you with detailed system specifications and ongoing maintenance costs estimates, so you will know exactly what you will be paying for.

  • Wise Food Survival Kits Back in Stock!

    After being out of stock for nearly 5 months, the very popular Wise Food survival kits are now again available. Last March, when the Japan earthquake impacted emergency preparedness supplies across the US, these survival kits sold out within days and resulted in a 5 month backlog of orders. Now, the manufacturer has not only caught up on these back orders, but they have also ramped up production operations and increased inventory reserves to better handle the fervent demand that typically follows the occurrence of a natural disaster. Note: We  happen to be seeing this currently with the Turkey earthquake and flooding in Thailand.

    If you do not have any emergency preparedness items for you or your family, these kits are a great way to get started and cover all the basics in one easy purchase. I personally have a deluxe kit for my home and an essential kit in the trunk of my car. These have already proven to be a great investment over the past couple years as I've used the essential kit in two instances while on the road. The product concept is simple; an all-in-one emergency preparedness backpack that contains long term food storage packets and emergency supplies like a flashlight, medical kit, waterproof matches, knife, water bottle filter etc.

    Wise Food Essential Survival Kit

    The Wise Food Essential Survival Kit backpack weighs 16 lbs and is designed to support 1 person for 2 weeks, or 2 people for 1 week. It contains:

    Pocket Tissue - Qty 6 packages
    4-in-1 Dynamo Flashlight - Qty 1
    Deck of Playing Cards - Qty 1
    Water Proof Matches - Qty 50
    Waste Bag - Qty 2
    Note Pad - Qty 1
    Golf Pencil - Qty 1
    Mylar Sleeping Bags - Qty 2
    Leather Palm Work Gloves - Qty 1
    36 Piece Bandage Kit - Qty 1
    Water Filtration Bottle - Qty 1
    Portable Stove - Qty 1
    Stove Fuel Tablets - Qty 16
    Metal Fork Knife and Spoon - Qty 1
    Sierra Cup - Qty 1

    Wise Emergency Food Storage Included With Backpack (44 Servings):

    Stroganoff
    Creamy Chicken Pasta
    Cheesy Lasagna
    Chicken Teriyaki
    Chicken Ala King
    Southwest Bean and Rice
    Beef Teriyaki and Rice
    Multi-Grain Cereal
    Honey Glazed Granola

    Wise Food Essential Survival Kit

    Wise

    Wise Food Deluxe Survival Kit

    The Wise Food Deluxe Survival Kit backpack weighs 27 lbs and is designed to support 1 person for 2 weeks, or 2 people for 1 week. It is an upgrade containing everything found in the Wise Food Essential Survival Kit described above in addition to these valuable supplies:

    Emergency Duffle Bag on Wheels - Qty 1
    Aqua Block Water - Qty 9 at 8.5 oz per container
    Swiss Army Knife - Qty 1
    Compact Multi-Function Shovel - Qty 1
    5-in-1 Survival Whistle - Qty 1
    Emergency Ponchos - Qty 2
    Deluxe Hygiene Kits - Qty 2
    NIOSH N95 Dust Masks - Qty 2
    Hand and Body Warmers - Qty 2
    2 Person Tube Tent - Qty 1
    Deluxe First Aid Kit - Qty 1
    12 Hour Bright Stick - Qty 1
    30 Hour Emergency Candle - Qty 1

    Wise Food Deluxe Survival Kit

    Wise

    Rather than doing hours of research and building your own food and supply kit, save yourself the time and energy with one purchase that'll provide the essential preparedness supplies that you and your family will need. Both provide a great foundation for emergency preparedness.

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