World Water Quality

I usually begin a discussion of world water quality with a photo of the World Trade Center that was destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. The reason for this is that about 4,000 people died in that horrific tragedy. However, today — and every day — about 4,000 children die around the world from waterborne diseases. It doesn’t make the headlines, but it really should. It is one of the greatest tragedies in our modern world.

The truly sad part is that these diseases have been so thoroughly eradicated in developed countries. Modern water treatment plants — along with their great operators like those that follow this blog! — have saved millions of lives in these countries.

What can be done to address this tragedy? Michael Pritchard has one idea, and you can see a brief video of it at:

http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_pritchard_invents_a_water_filter.html

I encourage you to spend the nine minutes to view the entire video. I also encourage you to read the discussion posts on the same web page. Mr. Pritchard has what looks like a great product. I certainly believe that it is technologically capable of removing disease causing microorganisms from contaminated water.

It is not the only product that can solve this problem. In fact, there are other approaches that could be simpler and cheaper, and just as effective. One such approach is suggested in the comments posted below the video: chlorine!

Yes, the great “evil” that is chlorine could actually save thousands of lives every day. Yet in developed countries, instead of extolling the obvious life-saving virtues of chlorine, we are complaining about the minuscule levels of disinfection by-products that disinfection with chlorination inevitably yield.

So how many Americans are dying each day from DBPs? If I ever hear of a single one, I’ll let you know! Yet no other water quality issue drives our industry more than disinfection by-products. We are spending billions of dollars in the USA to save ourselves from DBPs. Meanwhile, another 4,000 children die every day for want of a little chlorine.

I wonder what the families of the 4,000 children that will die today would have to say about the relative risks associated with waterborne disease and chlorination DBPs?

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