Posts Tagged ‘Water’

Keeping Stormwater Out of the Sewer System: Green Roofs

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 6th, 2011

Source: Environmental Research Web

From “Columbia researchers find green roof is a cost-effective way to keep water out of sewers“:

Green roofs like the one atop a Con Edison building in Long Island City, Queens can be a cost-effective way to keep water from running into sewer systems and causing overflows, Columbia University researchers have found. The Con Edison Green Roof, which is home to 21,000 plants on a quarter acre of The Learning Center, retains 30 percent of the rainwater that falls on it. The plants then release the water as vapor, the researchers said in the study (

If New York City’s 1 billion square feet of roofs were transformed into green roofs, it would be possible to keep more than 10 billion gallons of water a year out of the city sewer system, according to the study led by Stuart Gaffin, research scientist at Columbia’s Center for Climate Systems Research. New York City, like other older urban centers, has a combined sewer system that carries storm water and wastewater. The system often reaches capacity during rains and must discharge a mix of storm water and sewage into New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River and other waterways. Con Edison built the green roof and formed its research partnership with Columbia in 2008. The partners saw the green roof and an adjoining white roof as an outdoor laboratory for environmental research. Gaffin’s team found last year that the green roof and white roof save energy and reduce urban air temperatures. Under its “cool roofs” program, Con Edison has turned many roofs on company facilities white to save energy and protect the environment.

“The information we are collecting from Con Edison’s roofs is invaluable in helping us determine the costs and benefits of green infrastructure projects,” Gaffin said. “Without solid data from experiments like this, it is impossible for us to know which projects are the best options for protecting the environment.” “When we built our green roof we were confident that researchers from Columbia would gain important knowledge about protecting the environment,” said Saddie Smith, vice president for Facilities for Con Edison. “Three years later, it’s clear that our project has helped us understand how roofs can save energy, cool the atmosphere and prevent storm water runoff.”

The researchers used instrumentation to measure sunlight, and other forms of energy entering and leaving the green roof. That data allowed them to calculate the amount of energy leaving the roof in the form of water vapor. The study concluded that based on the cost of building and maintaining a green roof it costs as little as 2 cents a year to capture each gallon of water.

This article is from Columbia University via Environmental Research Web.

Replacing Bottled Water on Campus

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on January 26th, 2011

Via Cleanfood, the Future Climate newsletter

Image: katerha via flickr CC

From the University of Canberra:

21 January 2011: The University of Canberra will discontinue the sale of bottled water on campus, the Vice-Chancellor announced today.

The University is the first in the country to go bottled water free and will immediately begin phasing out on-campus sales. Covering a campus population of almost 13,000 students and staff, the move is the largest of its kind in Australia. It was initiated by students and assisted by action group Do Something!, represented at the launch by founder Jon Dee.

New water bubblers and bottle refill stations, installed with funding from the ACT Chief Minister’s Department, will significantly increase the supply of fresh, healthy, free drinking water on campus.

Students and staff will also be offered a chilled water alternative to bottled water in the form of the Australia’s first WaterVend machines. WaterVend machines dispense filtered, ‘flash-chilled’ still, sparkling or flavoured tap water into the customer’s own refillable container. The WaterVend provides a cheaper alternative to bottled water in campus food outlets and provides those outlets with a commercial income to offset the income lost from bottled water sales.

Read the full press release.

Social Enterprise for Water Harvesting

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 24th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Innovations, via Springwise

Aakash Ganga, River from Sky, is a domestic rainwater harvesting system [in Rajasthan]. It channels rooftop rainwater from every house in a community, through gutters and pipes, to a network of multi-tier underground reservoirs as shown below.

Aakash Ganga’s strategy is to form public-private-community partnership or social enterprise to provide drinking water to the people. It rents roofs from home owners or acquires rights to harvest their rooftop rainwater. The local government or Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) leases, at no cost, about 10,000 M2 land next to the shared community reservoir. A social takes care of the post-implementation upkeep and holistic sustainability ? social, cultural, economic, institutional, political, operational, and ecological. One half of the harvested rooftop rainwater is stored in the reservoir attached to the house for the exclusive use of the home owner. The other half flows to the shared community reservoir. People who live under thatched roofs or who cannot afford to have their own reservoirs take water from the shared reservoir.

Read about the Social, Engineering and Place-making innovations associated with this project on the Sustainable Innovations website
Check out some great photos from the project on flickr: Life Post Aakash Ganga Implementation (all copyright or I’d put some up here).

Hotspots and Hopespots: Points of Intervention

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 3rd, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From ““Hotspots” and “Hopespots” for Africa’s Water Challenges Outlined in New Water Atlas” by Matt Styslinger:

Africa faces growing challenges to its water resources. Many of these challenges have been laid out in the new Africa Water Atlas from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Atlas uses over 224 maps and 104 satellite images from 53 countries to detail threats to Africa’s water supplies—such as the drying of Lake Chad in the Sahel and the erosion of the Nile Delta in Egypt—as well as increasing water scarcity as a result of climate change. According to the Atlas, the amount of available water per person in Africa is well below the global average and declining. A majority of Africans are dependent on rainfed agriculture, and scientists are predicting that by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will live in conditions of increased water stress from climate change.


“The dramatic changes sweeping Africa linked with both positive and negative management of this continent’s vital water resources is graphically brought home in this Atlas,” says United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. Steiner also notes that the Atlas brings “into sharp relief” the way in which infrastructure development and environmental degradation are impacting African livelihoods. “But so too are the many attempts towards sustainable management of freshwaters,” he says.

Agriculture is the biggest user of water in Africa and only 4 percent of cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. The Atlas maps out new solutions and water management success stories from across the continent in what the UNEP calls “hopespots.”


Read the full article by Matt Styslinger

Green Roofs for Stormwater Management

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 24th, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

Image: Rotterdam Climate Initiative

From “Green Roofs in Rotterdam: Studies, Plans, Outreach, and Reducing Flood Risks” by Allison Killing:

Rotterdam’s initiative to promote the creation of green roofs within the city has seen just under 10% of the roofs suitable for this converted into green roofs. The project is part of the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, run by the Rotterdam city council, Port Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency with the aim of reducing the city’s CO2 emissions by 50% and helping the city adapt to climate change.

Although large areas of green roofs have many benefits for cities, such as reducing air pollution and helping to combat the heat island effect, Rotterdam’s priority was for water retention, since the city has a shortage of areas where water can be stored following heavy rainfall. Water management has always been a major concern in the Netherlands, since approximately 60% of the country lies below sea level. The analysis of the potential of green roofs in Rotterdam that preceded the introduction of the subsidies focused heavily on their capacity for water storage in order to reduce peak water discharge following a rain storm and help prevent flooding.

Read the full article on Worldchanging.

The Story of Bottled Water

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 20th, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water ( and manufacturing demand…)

Green Power Systems: Community Renewal

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 26th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From Communities using hydro power to fund green renewal by Paul Miles.

A pioneering community-based hydroelectric energy project in the Brecon Beacons (Wales) is a blueprint for how green energy can provide more than just low-carbon power…

Howell and Llinos Williams are Welsh farmers who have kept sheep on the hills at Abercraf, in the Brecon Beacons National Park, for over 40 years. For at least three generations, Howell’s family has been farming.  ‘Back then, they also did some mining – for coal,’ says Howell. Today, the Williams extract another kind of energy source from the land – hydroelectric power. ‘The best thing is that, unlike coal mining, there’s not much work to do,’ says Howell. The Williams family is now earning more from selling energy than from their 200 sheep.

The Brecon Beacons National Park, covering over 500 square miles and home to some 32,000 people who live surrounded by flat-topped hills and green valleys, is an ideal landscape for hydroelectricity: abundant rainfall rushes in steep streams to the valley floors. ‘High head’ micro hydro schemes have been providing power for half a dozen or so enterprising hill farms for nearly a decade. ‘The farmers are growing electricity,’ says Gareth Ellis, biodiversity officer in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

As part of a new project initiated by Ellis and his colleague, Grenville Ham, the Williams’ farm’s carbon footprint is being monitored. The results show that the green electricity generated by the water turbine means that the farm is ‘carbon negative’ four times over.

Of course, harnessing the power of water is nothing new. The valleys are full of the remains of old water mills, all of which became redundant once the area was connected to the national grid. It was the potential to return to those days of green power for everyone in the park that led Ellis and Ham to help set up a Community Interest Company (a legal structure for social enterprises developed by the government in 2005) called The Green Valleys with the twin aims of reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment.

The Green Valleys is helping communities to develop community-owned micro hydro schemes by bringing together landowners and local residents and providing access to expertise, grants and loans. Sixty-three schemes are in the pipeline. ‘In three years’ time we’re aiming for 20 per cent of the region’s electricity to be from hydro and within 15 years we want all of Brecon Beacons to be carbon negative,’ says Ham.

Read the full article by Paul Miles.

Traditional Techniques, Modern Issues: Water Purification

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 8th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Ancient tradition of water purification could save lives”

Indian tree seeds that purify water could dramatically reduce disease in the less-industrialised world, say researchers. The technique of crushing seeds from the Moringa Oleifera tree and adding them to water has been used in its native India for thousands of years. Now researchers from Canada say it is time to publicise the technique more widely in order to reduce water born diseases across the world.

One billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America rely on untreated surface water to survive. The NGO Water Aid estimates that 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. The researchers at Clearinghouse, an organisation that promotes low-cost water treatment technologies, are pointing to the ancient method of water purification as a possible solution. As well as reducing bacteria by over 90 per cent, the use of Moringa Oleifera seeds reduces ‘turbidity’, making water less cloudy. Furthermore, say the researchers, the Moringa tree is suited to growing in areas afflicted by drought and has other benefits besides water purification.  ‘Not only is it drought resistant, it also yields cooking and lighting oil, soil fertiliser, as well as highly nutritious food in the form of its pods, leaves, seeds and flowers,’ said Michael Lea of Clearinghouse.

Despite its life-saving potential, the benefits of the tree are little known, even in areas where it is cultivated. Lea hopes that by making his report freely available will allow communities most at need to benefit from it.  ‘This technique does not represent a total solution to the threat of waterborne disease […] But given the cultivation and use of the Moringa tree can bring benefits in the shape of nutrition and income as well as of far purer water, there is the possibility that thousands of 21st century families could find themselves liberated from what should now be universally seen as 19th century causes of death and disease,’ he said.

From “Ancient tradition of water purification could save lives” on the Ecologist.

Water Treatment Facility As Parkland

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on March 30th, 2010

From “Hume: New waterfront park does double duty” by Christopher Hume

When is a park not just a park? When it’s also a water treatment facility.

The best example in this city is taking shape at Sherbourne and Queens Quay. These days, the site doesn’t look especially park-like; in fact, it’s a sea of mud as work crews pour concrete on the enormous channel that will run the full length of the site carrying clean water to Lake Ontario.

The as-yet-unnamed park is one of 14 public spaces already constructed under the aegis of Waterfront Toronto, the agency created in 2001 by the three levels of government to oversee revitalization of Toronto’s old harbour lands. From the start a decade ago, the organization’s strategy has been based on the proposition that if you build the infrastructure, they will come.

But Waterfront Toronto has taken the concept an important step further. As Sherbourne Park – its temporary name – will illustrate so dramatically, in this case, infrastructure won’t just make the area inhabitable, it will itself be inhabitable. This notion of using design to transform a public utility into a public amenity has never made more sense than now. It’s not new, of course, but the idea that everything we build in a city should do double- (even triple-) duty is one whose time has come[….]

The intention was not simply to incorporate an industrial process – storm water purification – into the park, but also to reveal, even celebrate, that process. At a time when Canada’s infrastructure deficit stands at $123 billion, such exposure couldn’t be more welcome. These are the systems, usually out of sight and out of mind, that provide the basic urban functions we take for granted but can no longer afford to do so.

And so Sherbourne Park is also the Sherbourne Park UV Purification Facility. Beneath a pavilion designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple, water will undergo ultra-violet treatment. It then flows into the channel through three sculptures that rise nine metres above ground. The channel, which will figure prominently in the stormwater management system for the entire East Bayfront stretching from Yonge to Parliament Sts., also includes a biofiltration bed for further cleansing.

“The days of the singular perspective are over,” argues Vancouver landscape architect Greg Smallenberg. [….]  “We are in a new world of collaboration. Today the feeling is that if we have to build something anyhow, why not build something worthwhile. Waterfront Toronto really gets that. The politicians are also getting it, which from my perspective is probably the biggest advancement of the last few years.”

Read the full article by Christopher Hume.

Reactive Glass: Pollutant ‘Sponge’ for Site Remediation

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 12th, 2010

Source: CleanTechnica via CleanEdge

Image: diego cupolo via flickr CC

From ““Swelling Glass” Cleans Polluted Water Like a Sponge“, by Tina Casey

This is the discovery that could put the College of Wooster on the map: glass that swells like a sponge. Put together like a nano-matrix, the new glass can unfold to hold up to eight times its weight. The glass binds with gasoline and other pollutants containing volatile organic compounds but it does not bind with water, so it acts like a “smart” sponge, capable of picking and choosing from contaminated groundwater.

The new material was developed by Dr. Paul Edmiston of the College of Wooster, who formed a new company, Absorbent Materials, to market the new glass under the trademark Obsorb. A number of pilot sites are being tested in the United States, and industrialized countries are not the only ones that stand to gain. Obsorb’s unique properties make it ideal for low tech, low-budget cleanups in developing areas as well.

Obsorb is a reactive glass. Unlike conventional glass, it can bond with the chemicals it encounters. However, it is also hydrophobic, meaning that it does not bond with water. At a recent pilot demonstration in Ohio, Obsorb was used in the form of a white powder to suck up a plume of TCE (a volatile organic compound). TCE is particularly difficult and expensive to clean up using conventional means, which is the reason why some contaminated sites are simply shut down, allowing the vapors to dissipate naturally. The process takes decades, so Obsorb could provide a low-cost means of recovering sites more quickly. The venture development group JumpStart Inc. saw the potential and has just committed a $250,000 investment to Absorbent Materials.

Once full, Obsorb floats to the surface, where it can be skimmed off with something as simple as a coffee filter. After that the pollutants can be retrieved and the glass can be reused hundreds of time. Nanoparticles of iron can also be added to convert TCE or PCE (another volatile organic compound) into harmless substances. As a low cost form of cleanup, swelling glass could provide site remediators with yet another in the growing list of non-conventional cleanup tools along with lactate, vitamin B-12, and even cattails.

From ““Swelling Glass” Cleans Polluted Water Like a Sponge“, by Tina Casey