The Pure Water Occasional for February 16, 2015
In this gala Preident’s Day Occasional, you’ll find out where Erin Brockavich is protesting this week, learn a lot about well testing, and read of the sad plight of Sao Paulo. Then there are bacteria in water heaters, fish stealing whales, beached whales, plastics in the oceans, and corpses in the Ganges. Read about Legionella, Long Island’s monitoring wells, the U.S. Army Corps’ plan to trash Cleveland harbor, and the great water tasting event in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Hear about water tower removal, the Flint, MI water protest, and Florida’s gargantuan injection well. Finally, Pure Water Annie brilliantly fields FAQs about quick connect fittings and Chinese finger traps. And, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here. (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette’s sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)
Brazilians hoard water, prepare for possible drastic rationing
by Caroline Stauffer
February 11, 2105
A man stands on the cracked ground of the Atibainha dam as it dries up due to a prolonged drought in Sao Paulo state in October, 2014.
Editor’s Note: Most of the things we worry about, Mark Twain told us, never come to pass. But sometimes they do. Sao Paulo has been warned since the 1980s that it was running out of water. Now it has. — Hardly Waite.
Brazilians are hoarding water in their apartments, drilling homemade wells and taking other emergency measures to prepare for forced rationing that appears likely and could leave taps dry for up to five days a week because of a drought.
In São Paulo, the country’s largest city with a metropolitan area of 20 million people, the main reservoir is at just 6 percent of capacity with the peak of the rainy season now past.
Other cities in Brazil’s heavily populated southeast such as Rio de Janeiro face less dire shortages but could also see rationing.
Uncertainty over the drought and its consequences on jobs, public health and overall quality of life have further darkened Brazilians’ mood at a time when the economy is struggling and President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity is at an all-time low.
After January rains disappointed, and incentives to cut consumption fell short, São Paulo officials warned their next step could be to shut off customers’ water supply for as many as five days a week – a measure that would likely last until the next rainy season starts in October, if not longer.
State officials say they have not yet decided whether or when to implement such rationing, in part because they are still hoping for heavy rains in February and March. Indeed, thunderstorms in recent days have caused lakes to rise a bit.
Still, independent projections suggest that São Paulo’s main Cantareira reservoir could run out of water as soon as April without drastic cuts to consumption.
As such, the race is on to secure water while it lasts.
Large hospitals in São Paulo are installing in-house water treatment and recycling centers, among other measures, to make sure they can still carry out surgeries and other essential tasks if regular supply stops.
Meanwhile, companies are competing with each other to secure deliveries from large water tanker trucks, which have already become a common sight on São Paulo’s gridlocked streets.
“It’s like seeing 10 liters in your gas tank and knowing you won’t make it to the next station,” said Stefan Rohr, environmental director for industry group Ciesp in Campinas, a metropolitan area of more than 3 million people just north of São Paulo.
Many large water-intensive industries, including beverages, cellulose and steel, long ago made contingency plans to truck in water or use underground wells, which may stave off a full-fledged economic disaster.
But smaller ones, ranging from beauty salons and restaurants to car washes and light industry, may have to close or severely restrict activity.
“The economic impact will be job losses,” Rohr said.
40 Million Could Be Affected
Sabesp, São Paulo’s state-controlled water utility, told Reuters it did not yet know when or if rationing would begin. State Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who has also seen his popularity plummet due to the water crisis, declined requests for an interview.
A member of Rousseff’s Cabinet told Reuters earlier this month on condition of anonymity that some degree of water rationing is expected in Brazil’s three largest metropolitan areas – São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, with a combined population of 40 million people.
Even without rationing, health problems are being felt.
The official number of dengue fever cases in São Paulo tripled in January from the previous year to 120. Officials blamed the rise in part on residents collecting rainwater in open buckets, which attracts mosquitoes.
Many richer Brazilians have large storage tanks built into their apartment buildings or houses which, combined with more conscious water use, may allow them to survive severe rationing without ever seeing their taps go dry.
But most working-class families can’t afford such measures. Some unions are planning demonstrations for next month to protest the government’s handling of the crisis and demand the poor don’t bear the brunt of it.
“We will not accept paying for the government’s irresponsibility with our jobs,” said Adi dos Santos Lima, president of the São Paulo state branch of Brazil’s largest umbrella union, the CUT.
Brazil’s economy is already expected to post zero growth this year. Worse yet, since Brazil depends on hydroelectric dams for about three quarters of its electricity, power shortages are also possible due to the drought, federal officials have said.
Combined water and electricity rationing could lop an additional 0.5 percent or more off of economic growth in 2015, according to Ilan Goldfajn, chief economist at Itaú Unibanco.
Inflation, which is running above 7 percent a year, could also rise as companies face increased costs.
São Paulo’s shopping centers are standing by for potential rationing and have signed contracts to truck in water as soon as needed, said Glauco Humai, who heads Brazil’s mall association Abrasce.
“Our plan is not to close the malls. Obviously this will raise costs,” he said.
Some local chicken processors and pasta makers will also likely raise prices for those products as a result of trucking in water, a local food workers’ union said.
Even Carnival Cancelled
Sírio Libanês, one of São Paulo’s premier private hospitals, said it cut reliance on Sabesp from 65 percent of its water needs to 25 percent by recycling and installing its own treatment system. Another large upscale hospital, Albert Einstein, said it had increased storage capacity to last four days and would rely on trucks for emergencies.
Many neighborhoods have already experienced daily water outages as Sabesp turns down pressure in pipes to save consumption. Some residents of the Brasilândia slum said this week they were often without water 13 hours a day.
At least two towns in Minas Gerais, a massive coffee producing state adjacent to São Paulo, even canceled Carnival celebrations this month because of the lack of water.
In an upper-class neighborhood of São Paulo, a grocery delivery boy reported bringing 170 two-liter bottles of water to a single apartment over the weekend.
Ronaldo Guellen, who runs a small construction store, recently ordered 70 200-liter tanks that can be used to store water. They sold out in three days, he said, and he hasn’t been able to order any more because supplies are running short.
“People are really getting scared,” Guellen said.
Bacterial Growth in Water Heaters
Which Heaters are Safest, and What’s the Ideal Temperature?
Harmful bacteria can grow in water that is up to 122º F. At temperatures of 140º or higher, they are almost completely eliminated. When heaters run at low temperatures (about 99º –human body temperature–would be the worst) water heaters can become virtual hotbeds for bacterial growth. An example of an organism that thrives in the water heater is Legionella (the microbe that causes Legionnaires’ Disease). Surveys have shown that a third of water heaters tested contained Legionella. The organism can cause illness when it is either breath in or ingested during showering. Though you don’t hear a lot about Legionnaires’ Disease, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 cases each year in the US.
In addition to temperature, the type of heater matters in assessing the risk of Legionella. Gas heaters, which are heated from the bottom and not subject, therefore, to stratification in the tank (hot water rising to the top because it is lightest), are far less likely to support Legionella than electric heaters. Though not a lot of research has been done, bacterial growth in tankless water heaters regardless of the heat source seems unlikely.
The best temperature for your water heater is something of a tradeoff which must consider energy savings (the hotter you run the water, the higher your energy bill), the danger of scalding, and the possibility of bacterial contamination. If you have a tankless heater or a conventional gas heater, low temperatures can be used. With electric, you might choose to run the temperature at 140º and install anti-scald faucets.
Should You Test Your Well?
Editor’s Note: The article below is adapted from a 2013 Water Technology article by Jake Mastroianni. — Hardly Waite.
There are many things in life that are taken for granted, the quality of one’s drinking water should not be on that list. Well water testing, is a great way to get that sense of clarity about one’s water.
There are several different suggestions for when you should test, who should do the testing, why you should test, where you should test and what type of treatment to use if the testing comes back with negative results.
When you should test
The correct time sequence for testing varies based on different testing equipment, the type of well and location. The Environmental Protection Agency says private well owners should have their water tested at least once a year.
Mike McBride, marketing manager for Industrial Test Systems Inc., agrees with that concept. “Customers should have well water tested once a year,” he notes. “Immediately test if there is a noticeable change in the water’s taste, smell or appearance.”
Obviously, if there is a noticeable difference in a customer’s water supply, it would be a good time to have a water test performed. There are also precautions when installing new wells.
“We recommend having a complete series of tests run on a new well,” says Charlie Gloyd, market manager for water conditioning at LaMotte Company. “Depending on the results, we recommend that a new well be monitored quarterly for the first two years of operation. If the well is in good shape, continue to monitor every six months to a year.”
Marianne Metzger, business manager for National Testing Laboratories Ltd., also offers some advice on new and inactive wells. “For new wells, or wells that have sat inactive for many years, a comprehensive test should be considered to document the water quality. In addition to the typical analysis of bacteria and nitrate, new wells should be tested for volatile organic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, heavy metals and radiological levels. Having a comprehensive test done can alert you to problems as well as provide a baseline of water quality for that well in which to compare future results,” she says.
Who should perform the test
While many tests can be performed by the well water owner, tests should be performed by a competent professional when looking for contaminants that could cause health issues.
“Testing for health based contaminants like bacteria, nitrates and arsenic should be done by a certified laboratory,” adds Metzger. “Simple aesthetic contaminants like hardness and iron can be tested on-site by a water treatment professional or with a do-it-yourself home kit.” Metzger emphasizes the fact that having a professional, or even laboratory, perform a complete analysis is the best way to get the most accurate results.
“Some local health departments do testing or can recommend either certified local or regional companies to perform the testing,” says Gloyd. After testing is complete, Gloyd adds that the homeowner or local water treatment company should be able to monitor the water quality.
Why you should test
There are several contaminants that can unknowingly enter the water supply and cause health issues.
“Parameters that should be tested every year include bacteria (total coliforms), nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels,” says McBride. “The nitrates test is extremely important before giving well water to a newborn baby. High levels cause a potentially fatal disease called ‘blue baby syndrome.’ Homeowners should also test for arsenic, chloride, hardness, pesticides and metals.”
Bacteria is one of the most common problems found in wells, coming up in 40 percent of private wells tested, according to Metzger.
Here is a list of reasons provided by our experts for why wells should be tested:
- If you have replaced any part of the well.
- At a minimum check pH, iron and total Coliform bacteria.
- If the well is in a rural or agricultural area it is a good idea to check for nitrate, nitrite, arsenic and perhaps pesticides.
- If you notice a significant change in water quality like color, taste or odor.
- Flooding, earthquakes and fuel spills in your area could disrupt well water.
Probably we should add nearby oilfield activity, either drilling or fracking, to the list.
Where you should test for certain contaminants
The location of a well can play a huge factor in determining the type of testing that should be conducted. In different parts of the country some contaminants may be more prevalent than others.
“Your local health department will be able to suggest other potential contaminants based on the locale, such as cadmium, manganese, radon, chlorides, etc.,” says Gloyd. “Secondary factors that are not typically a health risk are copper, hardness, sulfide, total dissolved solids (TDS ) and others, as they can affect palatability.”
What are common problems and treatment options
“The most common problems in wells that require treatment include bacteria, pH, manganese, iron and nitrates,” says Gloyd.
As Metzger mentions, bacteria is one of the most common contaminants found in wells. “The most cost effective way to deal with bacteria is to shock disinfect the well using a chlorine solution,” she notes. “Most health departments will recommend using household bleach, due to its availability and cost, but it would be better to use something that has been NSF approved for use in drinking water.”
Gloyd adds that testing can vary and he recommends asking a local water treatment professional for the best treatment solutions.
More permanent forms of disinfection for water wells include ultraviolet light or a continuous chlorine feed.
Reference: Water Technology.
Water News for the week of February 15, 2015
Whales have learned to strip hooked fish from fishing lines. Grist.
States want 20 more years to meet Gulf dead-zone goals. A task force representing Iowa and 11 other states said Thursday it needs another 20 years to reduce the size of a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico by two-thirds.
Study finds rising levels of plastics in oceans. A new study reported in the NY Times reveals that eight million metric tons of plastic is being dumped into the world’s oceans every year and that this will increase greatly unless we by some miracle learn how to get rid of our trash more responsibly.
A smart plan to create a network of watchdog wells to monitor Long Island’s aquifers is set to begin in 2016. With dozens of plumes identified in the region, it’s vitally important we learn what’s happening to groundwater and detect problems before they reach supply wells. As many as 50 of these wells, expected to cost about $1.5 million to drill, will check for a range of contaminants as well as saltwater intrusion.
The resulting public database will be invaluable in charting the movement of such substances as pesticides, nutrients and pharmaceuticals and identifying looming threats as early as possible.But data alone are not enough. Follow-up is essential. Local and state officials must ensure there are sufficient funding and personnel to take the actions needed to keep our water clean.
Pollution has turned the sacred waters of the Ganges into a lethal cocktail of industrial and human waste. Can the river be saved? “32,000 corpses Are cremated in Varanasi each year and 200 tonnes of half-burnt flesh end up in the Ganges.” Read the excellent article in FT Magazine.
U.S. Army Corps cannot be allowed to dump toxic dredge in Cleveland harbor. “We see beauty. The U.S.Army Corps sees a toilet.” Read the Plain Dealer editorial.
How we ruined the oceans. Why are the oceans in trouble? They can no longer absorb the damage inflicted by the 7 billion people on Earth.
You still have time to make the big water tasting competition in Berkeley Springs, WV. It starts Feb. 21.
For the 25th year, water suppliers around the world will compete for the title of best-tasting tap. The Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting is set for Feb. 21 at The Country Inn. It’s the world’s largest and longest-running water tasting competition. A media panel will judge entries in categories such as municipal waters, purified drinking water, still and sparkling bottled waters, plus a public vote for best packaging.
Entries come from across the United States and as far away as New Zealand and Korea. Defending champion Clearbrook, British Columbia, is entered again in the municipal category, as is Santa Ana, California, last year’s second-place finisher. Among the 34 entries in the bottled water category is defending champion Castle Rock Water from Dunsmuir, California. Details.
Droughts will hammer US West as 21st century unfolds. Human-caused global warming will create conditions more severe than any in past 1,000 years, new research shows.
The city of Flint, MI notified customers in January that it was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The city has said that water tests have improved, but residents have steadily filed complaints about the smell, taste and color of the water. The city has switched water sources to save money, and citizens are furious. Erin Brockovich is planning a vist.
As costly as it is to build and maintain water towers, it also costs a lot to get rid of one. The city a Palatine is paying $25,000 to have the 100,000 gallon tank in the picture removed. Read more.
The deepest injection well in the State of Florida is in the works. The 10,000 foot well is being drilled by the Miami-Dade water and sewer department. Details.
Pure Water Annie’s FAQ Series
Pure Water Gazette Technical Wizard Pure Water Annie Answers All the Persistent Questions about Water Treatment.
This week’s topic: Quick Connect Fittings
Why do they call these things John Guest fittings?
The British company, John Guest, was the originator of the popular quick connect fittings used almost exclusively in small water filtration equipment these days. In the same way that all soft drinks are referred to as “cokes,” the brand name John Guest has become generic. Actually, there are several very good brands of “John Guest” fittings on the market.
How do they work?
When a piece of tubing is inserted into the fitting it passes through an o ring and is grabbed and held tightly in place by metal teeth that are mounted on a small collar called a collet. The tube is held tightly by the collet. Outward pressure makes the fitting tighter–something like a Chinese finger puzzle. It’s the small o ring that makes the seal. The metal teeth on the collet hold the tube in place. To release the tube, push in on the collet toward the body of the fitting and at the same time pull out the tube.
Do they leak?
Yes, but not often. They’re probably more reliable than standard threaded compression fittings because they aren’t as susceptible to installer error. Best of all, leaks are usually small drips–not the catastrophic blow-outs you can get with a poorly installed compression fitting.
What causes leaks?
New fittings seldom leak. Usually leaks occur after o rings in the fittings have been degraded by chemicals (chloramine is the worst) or by physical stress caused by improper placement. For example, if the installer fails to leave enough “slack” in a tube, causing the tube to be pulled hard to one side, a leak will usually occur because the o ring is flattened by physical stress. Fittings equipped with double o rings are less likely to leak than standard quick connects,
When the fitting leaks, can it be replaced?
Yes, it’s easy to replace fittings. There are many good brands on the market and they interchange well. But you really don’t have to replace leaking fittings because they are just as easily repaired. Replacing the o ring(s) almost always fixes the leak. Here’s a good article that tells how to fix them.
Once the collet has been popped out, the o ring is easy to remove and replace.
Sometimes they don’t release easily. Why?
If there’s any pressure at all on the fitting, it won’t release. You have to have the inlet water of your unit turned off and a downstream faucet open. And some fittings are harder to release than others. The double o ring variety–the ones that never leak–are also the hardest to release. Another of life’s tradeoffs.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories. We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment. We stock parts for everything we sell.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.
Garden Hose Filters. Don’t be the last on your block to own one.
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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