Posts tagged ‘water’

May 17, 2012

Fracking

In the UK media there is more and more talk about fracking and its possible threats. But what is it and why is has it become the centre of attention, while we rarely – if ever – heard about it earlier?

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is primarily used for natural gas exploitation, where water and chemicals are injected into the rock layers beneath at high pressure. This widens existing or creates new fractures, so the gas can flow out easier.

The first so-called ‘frac job’ took place in 1947 in Kansas, and today it’s widely used, even in the UK. Fracking however is very controversial and is claimed to cause more damage to the local environment than benefits for these neighbourhoods.

One of the problems with fracking is that it may cause small earthquakes, as it happened recently in Blackpool, which prompted the company to suspend operations for a few months. According to some US studies however this link is still under debate.
Other concerns include the possible contamination of local water tables with the chemicals or gas leaks, which happened in some areas in Pennsylvania.

A panel was set up in the UK, which has just published its report. According to this fracking does not cause more tremors than coal mining and these are of rather small magnitude, and mostly cannot be felt on the surface. Thus they suggest to resume fracking operations but with regular control checks.

Other countries respond differently to fracking – both France and Bulgaria have now banned such operations, South Africa is currently investigating whether to allow it, while it is widely used in the US and Canada. At the same time a new regulation in the US is about to be implemented – on air pollution from gas wells using fracking.

The question may be however whether it’s worth exploring this controversial method or should we put more focus on developing renewable sources.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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April 23, 2012

Hosepipe Ban – a Permanent Feature for UK Summers?

Those who live in the South East of England are surely familiar with the term: hosepipe ban. These summer-long bans are more and more common due to the lack of rainfall in recent years, which led to a record number of droughts and half-full reservoirs.

Also, population density is very high in this region and some parts of England are so dry, that even Sydney’s annual rainfall is double than that of London. According to some statistics, these bans could save up to 900 litres of water per hour.

When hosepipe bans are in place, residents mustn’t wash their cars, windows, water plants, and
they shouldn’t fill paddling pools or ponds, nor cleaning paths and patios – using the hosepipe.
Exemptions are offered for the disabled, and water companies may have slightly differing rules
from each other. Fines can reach up to £1000 if caught breaking the regulations.

But do hosepipe bans really help?
While surely many people think twice before opening taps when a hosepipe ban is ordered and may feel threatened by the potential fine, it’s down to the neighbours to notify the authorities – as water companies don’t have the money or resources for this.
Also, using buckets for either home car washes or filling pools is not forbidden, which may
mean that great amount of water is still used but it’s less likely to be wasted by leaving the hosepipe on.

Water saving is an important issue for the future of the UK, especially in the South East. This is one reason why water companies are rolling out water meter systems in this area. Paying for the exact amount of water used could not only lower current bills but can also help in conserving water, so there may not be a need for hosepipe bans in the future.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

February 24, 2012

Nano Tea Bag for Cleaner Water

As access to clean fresh water is getting more difficult day by day, there are already numerous ideas on how to solve this issue. One new approach uses nanotechnology, which may provide a 21st century solution for cleaning fresh water.

Nanotechnology itself should be imagined at a tiny level: one nanometre is a billionth of a metre, meaning it is about 40,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

It is suggested to be applied in three areas: at “water treatment and remediation, sensing and detection, and pollution prevention”, according to Professor Eugene Cloete from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Nano-membranes can help at water filtering, while specially developed nanomaterials can support remediation and also work at the disinfection of water. Also, nanoscale titanium dioxide (TiO2) could be applied to remove arsenic from water.

One solution used for water treatment are carbon nanotubes. These are one-atom thick cylindrical carbon sheets, which could be applied at desalination and also at water purification. Thanks to their large surface compared to their size, their capacity could be enormous, and they may even be ideal for filtering out water-soluble drugs.

The most recent innovative example is the “nano tea bag” with special nano-fibres that filter contaminants from the water, and contains activated carbon aimed at killing bacteria. Developed by South African scientists, this is a great opportunity and affordable solution for communities, where clean fresh water is scarce. Used by placing it in the neck of a bottle, it provides a capacity of up to one litre – even with heavy contamination levels.

Nano Tea Bag

New uses for Nanotechnology are spreading further every day and amongst its many opportunities, water treatment and cleaning could be one – which could make a real difference to the lives of millions of people.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: BBC Online

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