Saturday, July 12, 2014

Down the Drain

Eli has long been an advocate of the five fold way
  • Adaptation to deal with the damage already done
  • Amelioration, eliminating harmful effects of our actions
  • Conservation with needed and desired but not wasteful usage
  • Substitution of green systems for destructive ones
  • Mitigation reversing our thoughtless abuse
and not just for dealing with climate change.  Neat and tidy are two virtues Mom Rabett was strong on, and Ms. Rabett, well at times she is just plain cheap, Eli being thrifty.  Thus waste offends.

There has been considerable noise in the climate set about leaks from natural gas pipes and wells.  An  article in the NYTimes by David Bornstein points out that water systems are sieves. 
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates (pdf) that public water systems lose, on average, one-sixth of their water — mainly from leaks in pipes. The E.P.A. asserts that 75 percent of that water is recoverable. (In truth, the volume of leakage in the nation’s 55,000 drinking-water systems is unknown, because few conduct water audits.
with loads of consequences
It’s been widely reported that California is experiencing its worst drought in history. But take a look at the United States Drought Monitor: much of the country is abnormally dry or in drought. Internationally, the problem is even more serious. The World Bank reports that, over the next decade and a half, water availability may fall 40 percent short of global need (pdf).

Meanwhile, utilities in the developing world are hemorrhaging water. The World Bank estimates that water systems have real losses (leakages) of 8.6 trillion gallons per year, about half in developing countries (pdf, 11MB, p.6). That’s enough to serve 150 million Americans (and we use a lot of water!)
Bornstein describes how the Bahamas are dealing with the problem in collaboration with a consulting firm Miya and the obvious progress they are making

Sealing up systems can not only save money, but because water systems are often limited by water supply, it can insure delivery.  Doing so requires commitment, technology and funding, but pays multiple dividends.
One study (pdf) conducted for the California Public Utilities Commission examined audits done by 17 water utilities and found that losses were 1.6 to 6.6 times higher than optimum levels.  Assuming that 40 percent of the losses could be recovered economically, the study’s lead author, Reinhard Sturm, estimated potential savings at 113 billion gallons per year — equivalent to the annual production of six Carlsbad projects.

It’s vital to consider the impact on energy use and the environment. Water is often lost between the main pipe and the customer, which means it has already been extracted, treated and transported a very long way. That’s expensive. All that energy is lost — and more has to be used — and that, of course, increases carbon emissions. California’s water system is already the state’s largest single energy user. At the same time, desalination plants are energy intensive. Electricity accounts for roughly half the cost of their water.
Oh yeah 


33 comments:

Aaron said...

Several old cultures seem to have run high-end civilizations (without the use of fossil fuel) that are remembered for their art and literature. What will we be remembered for?

Anonymous said...

While on vacation, may you reflect on your profound arseholiness.

john Mruzik said...

Eli may be an academic, prone to arrogance, but you will do your work on water. To quote Kipling.

Canman said...

You should have built more nuclear plants. Excess capacity could have been used for desalination.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

While on vacation ...

Why are you subjecting yourself to this terrible abuse here, when you could change the channel, or even better yet, go outside and play?

Kevin O'Neill said...

TLE - my guess: "All I know is that my happiness is built on the misery of others, so that I eat because others go hungry, that I am clothed when other people go almost naked through the frozen cities in winter; and that fact poisons me, disturbs my serenity, makes me write propaganda when I would rather play... - John Reed

Russell Seitz said...

2,500 years after a wiseguy named Solon mitigated Athens' urban heat island effect by painting the town white, the world is still deeply shocked that water reservoirs evaporate fast when the sun shines.

Bad as leakage may be , the other half of the problem
is the exposed interface of sun , wind and water on top of reservoirs rivers and canals. Many nations lose more water to evaporation than they consume, and, witness the level of Lake Mead even competent reservoirs can't help when water is left sitting dark and deep.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

If your reservoirs are going to evaporate anyways, then it follows that you should convert that vapor to drinkable distilled water at the very least. But that takes energy. No, wait, it gives up energy, which must then be radiated away ... oh, forget it. Weather already does this well. You can reproduce it on a smaller scale as well, I have. It works.

So it's more a matter of who gets the condensate and what they do with it. It's a vicious cycle. Large ice sheets is a pretty clever solution if you ask me.

turboblocke said...

Canman: but where are you going to get the cooling water for the nukes from?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Reverse osmosis desalinization is a very expensive, energy intensive, mechanically complex and messy process, and as Eli has already pointed out it has already made a mess of the third world. Unless there is some sort of 'magic membrane', distillation is a better approach since it already occurs on a large scale naturally, and delivers the desired result - ultra pure water. Reverse osmosis takes a second pass and even that tastes pretty bad. I'd rather drink rain but even rain nowadays is iffy.

Regardless, you don't need a nuclear reactor to make steam.

Canman said...

" you don't need a nuclear reactor to make steam "

No. But you need energy and if you want a lot of steam, you need a lot of energy.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Just off hand I'm guessing I don't need several hundred million electron volts per molecule.

Idiocy ... personified.

Jeffrey Davis said...

The water produced by reverse osmosis is unfit for drinking.

Fernando Leanme said...

Reverse ósmosis units are quite common. I have one installed at home and our drinking water tastes fine. The water here is a mixture of water from the town's reverse osmosis plant and water pumped from reservoirs which gather water from aquifers in carbonate rocks in nearby mountains.

However, the original post is right, we do leak a lot of water. In some countries the water leaks are left up repaired, and this causes erosion of the soil around the leak. In some cases, for example in Caracas where the government has broken down and there's very little maintenance I saw huge craters in the streets after they collapsed due to the large cavities caused by such leaks. Things are so bad in Caracas right now they have water rationing and some days the water is cut off for 24 hours in a row. And yet there's no sign of improved maintenance.

Russell Seitz said...

Tom, Tom, an electron volt is ~10,600 Kelvins--

Just think how many molecules you could boil with several hundred million of the things !

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Thus rendering the surrounding concrete, land and water unfit to drink. I don't need the hassle.

Besides, when the water condenses I get my energy back, in the form that I can easily radiate away. All it requires is that I cover my reservoir with a piece of slanted glass. Gravity does the rest. I can tell that you've never done this. I have, every step of it. Good luck in the zombie apocalypse, you'll need it. I wish you well, but don't ask me for advice when it comes.

James Cliborn said...

How much water goes down the drain trying to get the shower hot?

Russell Seitz said...

Tom writes thus of fallout from the dreaded Electron Volt :

"Thus rendering the surrounding concrete, land and water unfit to drink. I don't need the hassle."

Perhaps he should switch to gluten free or organic sunlight, as the common sort averages upwards of 1.1 eV per photon- O the humanity !

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I think it's more a matter of the thermal neutrons and the radioactive nucleons. It takes a while and makes a huge mess to get it down to the eV level, let alone down to the microwaves necessary to make steam from water molecules.

Your ignorance is showing. But by all means, do continue. Anything you say will be used against you. This stuff is archived and in a couple of years another willard will come along and regurgitate.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

How much water goes down the drain trying to get the shower hot?

These people are aficionados of primitive plumbing arrangements. It's downright ... Romanesque.

They're more concerned with resale value than they are saving Earth.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Criticizing the terminology, nomenclature, grammar and spelling is a dead giveaway that you've lost the argument. No nuclei, water molecules or innocent higher lifeforms were harmed in the making of this steam. Some bacteria undoubtedly perished however.

Hank Roberts said...

Self-sustaining nuclear fusion is 499 seconds away, and always will be.
http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/venus/q89.html

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I don't know about that, the sun seems to be shining brightly again today, and it manages to effect the energy cascade down into the ultraviolet and optical just fine.

What you do with those free photons is still totally up to you, though. At the very least I suggest you boil some water and make some steam. Or at least evaporate some and make some clean and fresh distilled water.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Oops, sorry, I didn't look at the graphic before I posted, lol. Woosh.

Jeffrey Davis said...

The reverse osmosis plant I most come in contact with is on Sanibel Island. The water is just nasty. We buy bottled water for drinking when we visit. As do many of the inhabitants there.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

When you to RO from salt water feedstock you get 300 ppm which is pretty nasty. It's for washing dishes, taking showers and stuff on desert islands. You have to double pass it to get anything remotely drinkable. Another problem is unqualified technicians taking the RO discharge and running straight onto the land creating a wasteland. I've seen quit a bit of that as well, and even worse, running diesel generators flat out 24 hours a day to power these things. What a freakin mess. And these are the guys saying alternative energy is terrible and we need nukes to run RO.

Fuck em. And of course, Russell comes here to defend these idiots.

Brian said...

It's ridiculous that many water systems don't know their leakage rate. They know how much water is leaving their plants, and they know how much water they're charging their customers. Even I can do that math.

Here in California the leakage rate isn't that bad - our biggest customer has 7% leakage. I don't know the figure for us but I expect it to be extremely low - we have a relatively small amount of big pipes that are carefully monitored, not a fractal distribution network.

As for RO, I drank some yesterday from treated wastewater at the grand opening of our new plant in San Jose. It tasted fine. There's a big distinction between treating wastewater/briny groundwater versus treating ocean water (possibly on taste as well?). The former is a far better solution than the latter, especially on climate mitigation grounds.

Not wasting water to begin with is even better, tho.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

A far better solution would be not to shit in your drinking water. But I guess you missed that.

EliRabett said...

Well actually a good idea is to shit in your drinking water after you drink from it. For many uses grey water is fine.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

That's black water, not grey water. And no, there are very few good uses for it. It needs to be vaporized or atomized and then separated into its constituents.

Grey water is what goes down your sink drain or out of your washing machine, and even that's a problem.

Don't they teach you guys anything in grade school anymore?

Martin Vermeer said...

Another Schmidt on a bike:

http://weetweetie.tumblr.com/post/91046245949/gavin-schmidt-in-new-york-riding-a-bike-from

dhogaza said...

TLE:

"Don't they teach you guys anything in grade school anymore?"

Eli was clearly saying use grey water to flush your toilet.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Right, but the problem remains that you still have 7 to 9 or ten billion humans shitting in their drinking water. This is the 21st century, in case you haven't noticed. Water based sanitation is so 19th century, and much of the world doesn't even have it yet. And that's just one of a whole list of problems you have failed to deal with. Do I have to give you the list again, or can you figure it out for yourself?

The lifetime remaining of your so called civilization is now measured in years, you need to start working on these problems.