Two-minute youTube Tuesday: The RAM Pump


A gem of a comment I found on youtube:

“ROFL there is no water shortage. Our military and cruise ships distill sea water for drinking… Never will we have a shortage gullible people suck. Start building your distillers and quit crying”

Should water be free?

Access to sufficient clean drinking water is a basic human right.

And this was only explicitly recognized in 2010 by the UN. Does that seem a bit late to you? (upcoming post about this issue soon — I wrote my senior thesis about it)

WHO (World Health Organization) defines “adequate access” as 20L/person/day within a 1 km distance. The factors that are addressed here are quality, quantity and distance of the user from the water source. This metric, however, does not engage with the issue of the cost of water.

I believe that clean drinking water should not be free. Ever. Never ever.

Let me break that down before you think I have no soul (I do think it should be free in short-term emergency mitigation situations such as in war time, at refugee camps and following natural disasters, what’s up Hurricane Sandy). I am a strong believer in the power of economics to influence human behavior. I am of the opinion that if you give something to someone for free, it will not be valued and maintained effectively by the recipient as much as if you had sold it to them. An investment will show a commitment to the product by the consumer. In this sense, I believe there should be flexibility in charging for water. Yes, it is a basic human right, but that does not mean it should be free.

Food is a basic human right. It is not free. Access to health care is a basic human right. It is not free (not in the US of A at least).

There should be boundaries though. I would not want to see a private enterprise come in, see an area afflicted by water scarcity and make a killing by charging ridiculously high rates for clean water because they have a monopoly on the only water source. I think making such a large profit off a vulnerable population is unethical. A classic case of the (perceived) evil engineering company coming in and robbing the poor is the “Cochabamba Water War”. In this historic protest, the contract with Bechtel was canceled due to a popular uprising. I honestly believe that Bechtel could have benefited the area (yes, this is speculation). They aren’t doing too well as it stands with the system people protested to keep:

But the results, in terms of access to clean and affordable water, are far more mixed. Half the homes in the area served by the public water utility still have no water service; many of those that do have service only have it a few hours a week. A decade after people shed blood in the streets to retake their water, the company that manages it remains riddled with corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency—a source of graft for the city’s mayor and the union that represents the company’s workers.

Governmental regulation and public-private partnerships can prevent exploitation from happening. Well-managed public utilities (shout-out to George Hawkins and his fantastic management of DC Water) can charge reasonable prices for water. A private entity can work with the public utility to increase efficiency. Utilities do need money to maintain their systems of water delivery after all! If they have help from the government in the form of subsidies they would be able to effectively deliver water and maintain their delivery system (old pipes!).

As I spoke about in an earlier post, giving out free water systems will not solve the water crisis. There needs to be a (reasonable) charge for a water system or a water delivery service. This can help ensure that the consumer has the income available to purchase spare parts for an installed system later on when it breaks. It also promotes conservation. You are more likely to conserve a resource you had to pay for.

Access to water is a basic human right. This does not mean that it is unethical to charge for it. You do go to the grocery store don’t you (well, not today, the grocery stores around here are certainly bare…)? Same idea.

I strongly disagree with this article.

Going to blow away in D.C.,


Diamonds of Water Treatment

Activated Carbon is basically charcoal that has been heated up in order to increase the absorption of hundreds of different types of compounds that cause a discoloration or odor in water. Charcoal is highly porous, I’m sure you have noticed when you BBQ and pour lighter fluid to start the fire, it’s quickly absorbed. In water treatment that absorption works to take out organics and a catalytic reduction attaches negative ion contaminants to the positive ions of activated carbon. With these two processes working together it removes thousands of organic compounds and chemicals like chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, radon, VOC’s, and benzene. However, nitrates and salts slip right through. It soaks up almost everything, but there is a limit. These bonding sites DO have an expiration. Once all the spots of the activated carbon are filled it no longer works. This is why it is important to replace your water filters at home.

Chlorine is added during the treatment process in order to kill bacteria and viruses that can make you sick, however there are by-products such as THMs and HAAs that are carcinogens and found in almost every tap in the U.S. From using an activated carbon system, these traces will be removed. When you turn on your tap and drink water you are not only drinking what has been treated, but also what the water has picked up from traveling miles in various pipe systems that are usually 30-40 years old. My point is, overall it’s not going to hurt you to just drink tap water in the U.S., but you can make the water you intake healthier.

Ideally, water that is the best for the human body is a little bit alkaline meaning needs some Mg2+ and Ca2+. This is where the term hard water and soft water are commonly used, because we don’t want an excess of either. This balance is best achieved with filtering your water through an activated carbon system giving your water the little bit of the alkalinity you need. Overall, with the things I have seen in my travels with water, nothing you drink in the U.S. is going to hurt you, but when you are able to see what other people are drinking, our water is beyond incredible. However, if you have the time to replace the filters every 1-3 months and can afford it, then it will be better for you and your family.

Just do NOT forget to REPLACE the filter otherwise you wait a long time for the water to trickle through a maxed out activated carbon system for a glass of water that is the same thing as the tap.


Fracking: is it really that evil?

I went to San Diego last weekend. On my flight back, I sat next to a frack hand. He works in natural gas extraction, or “fracking“. He was flying to North Dakota to go work at a natural gas extraction site. In undergrad, I watched Gasland which got my feathers all ruffled about the dangers of fracking. So my default reaction was one of shock and horror. How could he sell his soul to such an evil practice? Sure it pays well, but people can light their taps on fire! Fish die! Water is polluted!

…but is it really that bad?! (I’m asking because I really don’t know)

I asked my seatmate about how damaging fracking can be on the surrounding environment. The apparatus he works with sucks gas out of the earth 8000 feet below. He spoke of the heavy duty well casing that is put in so that the fracking fluid won’t leak into the surrounding groundwater system. Does that mean the well casing would have to be 8000 feet tall? That’s pretty steep. Also the fracking fluid is injected at redonkulously (technical term) high pressures. Wouldn’t that put a strain on the well casing that could cause cracking and therefore leaching of the fracking fluid?

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding fracking. It’s hard to get a straight answer from anyone. Trying to figure out the truth.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY H2DAYO! (it’s one month old!)

Feeling fracking crazy in D.C.,