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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

An astonishing number of people have no access to flush toilets

More than half the population of Earth, 4.5 billion people today have no access to that most basic comfort, the use of a flush toilet. What’s more, that statistic could get even worse due to the increasingly extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

Although the Sustainable Development Goals consider sanitation and hygiene as a priority issue, 4.5 billion people still go to the toilet outdoors.

The problem is exacerbated by the increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change, as it can limit access to water even further, which also jeopardises sewerage services: droughts may mean there is not enough water to flush toilets, while floods can render sewage networks dysfunctional. (During the Cape Town crisis, “waterless toilet” was one of the most popular Google search terms in the region.)

As to whether the sustainability goal will be met, this is likely to be decided in India, as that country has the highest number of people without access to basic sanitation.

According to experts, a solution could be provided by using a decentralised system, which means that local wastewater would have to be utilised locally rather than building sewage networks to transport it over large distances.

For instance, human waste is quite suitable for soil fertilisation due to its nutrient content. But there are other methods of utilisation as well, such as the generation of biogas, solid fuel, and human waste can also be used to produce valuable proteins and animal fodder.

Today, 4.5 billion people around the world have no access to hygienic sanitation services Photo: Shutterstock

Steroids in the water?

Despite the continuous development of wastewater treatment technologies, the complete removal of synthetic pharmaceuticals using the three-step method currently in use is yet to be achieved. A number of researchers are working to improve the efficiency of the removal of these molecules from the present value of 10 to 30 percent.

EU campaign to clean up beaches worldwide

As part of a campaign launched by the European Union, which culminated on 21 September, International Coastal CleanUp Day, marine waste washed up on beaches is collected in more than 80 countries on all inhabited continents, the European Commission has announced.

The creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

This astonishing video is about the creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is twice the size of the state of Texas.

Radioactive water to be dumped in the Pacific Ocean?

On 11 March 2011, Japan suffered a magnitude 9 earthquake, which also impacted the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Since then, more than a million tonnes of radioactive water has been collected from the damaged cooling system of the plant, but the tanks will be filled to capacity by 2022.

The cycle of active pharmaceuticals: from the sewage system onto our tables

The set of problems around pharmaceutical residues is extremely complex: the active compounds that are released can reach not only drinking water but also our food. Luckily, scientists have started investigating the problem, and the development of technologies able to offer a solution is also under way.

Scientists on the trail of pharmaceutical residues

The active ingredients of various medicines are released into the environment with treated and untreated wastewater, and today they can be detected not only in surface waters but also in underground waters and the soil. But what defensive measures can we take against them? Hundreds of research groups are studying that question worldwide.

Thousands of marine mammals perish around UK shores

Data from the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme indicates that between 2011 and 2017, almost five thousand marine mammals were stranded around the shores of the UK.

Food packaging trash covers beaches

Nine of the ten most common types of seaside waste are related to human food and drink consumption.

Medications in the water?

More and more pharmaceutical drugs are sold each year, which, along with their benefits, have their disadvantages, too: some of the active ingredients are discharged from our bodies unchanged and they end up polluting our natural waters. Our current knowledge suggests that this does not carry a significant health risk, but as we do not know the long-term effects of the process, it is a problem for which we must find a solution in the near future, for instance by introducing new technologies.

Awareness-raising popsicles made of polluted water

Three design students in Taiwan teamed up to create the Polluted Water Popsicles project so as to call attention to the increasing level of water pollution caused by the country’s economic growth and urbanisation.

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