Next week is World Plumbing Day.
I’ve talked about areas in the United States that have less than ideal plumbing situations. From Flint, Michigan’s lead-laden water, to the plumbing woes of low income communities, clean drinking water and adequate plumbing isn’t always accessible.
Today though, I decided to focus on some of the different ways that plumbing is handled outside of the US. Plumbing isn’t standardized across the world, so it’s eye-opening to learn about some of the issues or solutions other countries experience.
This West African country isn’t unique in it’s water inequality – but it’s a good example of what happens when a country is in drought and does not have a good plumbing procedure or hardware in place. The water in the local rivers are highly polluted from upstream industries. This compounds the issue of trying to locate clean water when already in a severe drought state.
The most common problem is illness and death related to water-borne diseases including cholera, typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia. So what do communities do once it’s gotten to such a state? Bore huge holes in the ground to reach water. This is the truth: this does not make safe water. But it makes it safer than the alternative. Now, people who were using the same water for washing hands, washing dishes, and feeding livestock can have more options to keep the different waters separated for use, reducing the cross-contamination and water-borne diseases.
Nestled between Kazakhstan and China is the country of Krygystan. It’s an interesting story: the country is abundant with natural sources of water. However, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, little has been done to make the water available to the residents throughout Krygystan. Very little money is put towards maintenance or upgrade of rural water supply systems. 40% of the villages in Krygystan have plumbing structures fashioned in the early 1960s, so while residents may have water, it is less sanitary because of the lack of maintenance.
Many rural residents rely on Aryks. An Aryk is a type of irrigation canal open to the elements. While the intention is to provide water for agricultural purposes, many residents rely on Aryks for their daily water. With natural bacteria and contamination from debris and animals in the aryks, residents can not rely on them for sanitary water.
Green Tech of Countries for Water Conservation and Plumbing
Rather than just look at the lack of clean water for World Plumbing Day, I thought I’d also mention some of the solutions that countries have developed to their plumbing issues as well!
Israel houses the two largest desalination plants. The Ashkleon Desalination Plant, built in 2005, converts water from the Mediterranean Sea into fresh water. It provides approximately 6 percent of the total demand for Israel. It was initially deemed the most efficient desalination plant. Rather than relying on boiling the ocean, it uses reverse osmosis. Then, its big brothers Hadera and Sorek Desalinations plants came along in 2009 and 2013 respectively. Israel is clearly ahead of the game when it comes to efficient desalination plants!
Let’s look at Lima, which gets about 2 inches of rain a year. That’s not enough to survive on! However, during hot summer days, humidity can be higher than 90%. Engineers from Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology designed and built a billboard –yes, a billboard– that captures the water in the air, and condenses it for availability of drinking water. The billboard, through a combination of condensing and reverse-osmosis purification, generates about 96 liters of water each day. The residents simply turn a faucet at the bottom of the billboard to access the water. There is currently only one of these billboards, but the project has spurred new discussions on interesting ways to provide clean water.
While I’m talking about cool advancements – check out this snake robot that laser-welds from inside! Now THAT is a pretty awesome plumbing tool!