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Unilever Turns its Attention to Farm Runoff with ‘Sustainable Soy’ Effort

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

But that fertilizer can leach through soil and wash off land, polluting our drinking water, destroying our fishing rivers, and turning a Connecticut-sized chunk of the Gulf of Mexico into an oxygen-depleted hypoxic zone, suffocating aquatic life.

Despite environmental groups, non-profit organizations, and the government pressuring farmers in the Midwest to clean up their act, this multi-billion dollar problem has continued to fester for decades. Now some of the world’s wealthiest food companies are concerned about how it could hurt their bottom lines, and they are beginning to join the effort.

“No parent wants to give their kid a glass of milk in the morning that may be linked to these issues,” said Brooke Barton, senior program director for the water program at Ceres. “The biggest risk for these companies is their reputational risk of being associated with toxic algae and hypoxia.”

Ceres helps some of the biggest investment groups understand the environmental risks associated with the companies in which they invest, and has recently turned its attention to the threat of water scarcity caused, in part, by pollution from the agriculture industry.

Fearing a potential backlash from customers, companies like Coke, Nestle, General Mills, and Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, are beginning to pressure farmers to reduce their contribution to water pollution.

Unilever, which needs a lot of soybean oil to produce its Hellmann’s mayo, launched Sustainable Soy in partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Archer Daniels Midland, and the non-profit organization, Practical Farmers of Iowa. The campaign for Sustainable Soy comes complete with an advertising campaign featuring the wholesomeness of Unilever’s soybean farmers. The company hopes to enroll 250 farmers and 285,000 acres of Iowa cropland by the end of the year.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has guidelines and a certification process for “organic,” no such program is in place to clarify what it means for a farm or a food product to be “sustainable.” Unilever, which has a sustainable agriculture code (pdf) that outlines practices it expects its farmers to adhere to, said for them, it boils down to “continuous improvement.”

“How can they get better yields? How can they use less fertilizer? How can they just better overall improve their practices?” said Stefani Millie, a senior manager for sustainability at Unilever’s U.S. division.

On the path towards improvement, there’s always a first step. For farmers in the Sustainable Soy program, it’s the very basic step of figuring out what they’re doing that could be contributing to the problem.

To convince farmers to share their farming practices, which they protect like a trade secret, Unilever is offering them an extra ten cents for each bushel of soybeans they grow. In exchange, farmers report things like how much fertilizer they spray, what kind, and when. Unilever lays this private information on top of public information about the land’s soil type, proximity to streams and rivers, and the slope of their hills. The result is an environmental footprint of each one of the farmers’ fields.

Though the farmers and their land remain anonymous, Unilever shares this information with the entire group, which allows farmers to see how the fields on their farm compare and how their farm as a whole stacks up against their neighbors’. The result is a little friendly competition that, Millie said, could lead farmers to invest in improvements.

“They can look and see that maybe they’ve got one field that’s using more Nitrogen. And they can go back and say, “Why is this different from my neighbors?” Millie said. “Hopefully it will trigger some of those thoughts and have them investigate to continue to improve their practices.”

Craig Pfantz, who farms more than 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in State Center, Iowa, signed up when Unilever launched Sustainable Soy three years ago.

“I like it,” Pfantz said. “What got me into it? To be honest? The ten cent premium.”

Now, he says the knowledge he’s gained is more valuable. For instance, Unilever’s environmental footprints of his fields have given him a clearer picture of his farm’s “problem spots.”

Rounding a corner covered in seven-foot tall stalks, Pfantz’s pickup dips into a valley and then climbs a slope. At the top, he idles his truck in the middle of the road, leans against his steering wheel and points through the rain-spattered windshield towards a steep hill covered in forest green soybeans.

“You get a combine on that kind of slope and you’ll wonder, “what am I even doing here?” Pfantz said. “It probably shouldn’t even be farmed.”

Hills like this are prone to erosion. During heavy rains, they wash away fertile topsoil along with the phosphorus Pfantz sprays on the ground to fertilize the crop. Despite utilizing a number of conservation practices—no-till, side-dressing his nutrients, terracing, and grass waterways to slow down the rain—his rolling ground is still vulnerable to washing away.

That’s a financial loss for Pfantz, who spent money on the fertilizer that runs downstream. There’s also the long term cost of the quality of his soil deteriorating, jeopardizing the value of the land which he’ll eventually pass down to future Pfantz generations.

He thinks out loud for a moment, considering what it would take to convert these patches of ground back into small grains, maybe even pasture. But it doesn’t make economic sense.

“It boils down to profit,” Pfantz shrugs. “The whole agricultural system has been developed around corn and soybeans, so we have to make what we have work.”

Pfantz, committed to reducing his environmental footprint, is signing up for the second step offered to farmers in the Sustainable Soy program. This year, he’ll plant a cover crop of cereal rye on his most vulnerable ground. The crop, which he’ll plant after harvesting his corn and soybeans this fall, will spend the winter soaking up extra nitrogen and holding down his phosphorus and soil.

For the next three years, Sustainable Soy will help Pfantz pay for this conservation practice. After that, he’ll have to foot the bill himself. But, Pfantz believes it’ll be worth it.

“You have to look at cover crops as a long term investment—like putting money in the bank,” he said. “You’ll maintain the sustainability of the land which will make it productive for future generations.”

While Pfantz is making some tangible improvements on his farm, there’s a difference between real progress and good PR for the food company pushing him in this direction.

“Ultimately for this to be credible with consumers,” said Brooke Barton from Ceres, “The companies need to show that there are real changes over time in production impacts. Water quality improvements, soil health improvements, this is the end game.”

To really have an impact on water pollution in the Midwest, companies will need to push more farmers from information gathering to action. And just as farmers react to a little coaxing from companies to do a better a job—companies react to pressure from consumers.

Source: civileats


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Water a finite resource, use it with care

CLEAN drinking water and clean air available for breathing are some of the most precious natural resources we take for granted.

If the observed behaviour of waste and neglect is anything to go by, it seems like it never occurs to some people that clean drinking water may only continue to be available for a limited time.

This is despite many calls for a change in behaviour and for peple to take an active part in protecting our country’s water resources.

The natural resources of our planet are under threat.

There have been warning signs for a number of years.

It is unfortunate that the continuous calls for the protection of water and other natural resources have not elicited a positive response to curb global warming, protecting the environment and protecting the finite resources of our planet.

To many people it seems like water will always be there, that the air we breathe will never run short; for many it is not a priority to modify their behaviour and not to harm the atmosphere.

We know that many poor people from different parts of the world have been alienated from their global human responsibility of protecting the environment, the planet and all natural resources of Mother Earth by the actions of a few rich people.

Many rich economies of today were the greatest polluters of the atmosphere during years of industrialisation.

They polluted the environment and forced many poor people to do things that were harmful to the environment, such as chopping down trees for fire and cooking, in order for them to survive.

Governments across the globe have not prioritised environmental education.

This has led to ignorance among many people of the world, rich and poor, about the need to protect and preserve the finite natural resources.

The harm that we have caused to the environment has led, among other things, to the melting of icebergs, which in turn has led to a rise in sea levels, excessive heat waves, heavy and disastrous rainfalls, unpredictable weather patterns and seasons that no longer conform to known patterns.

We have experienced overly long summers and winters with very little in between of spring and autumn. These are some of the negative effects of climate change that are affecting our lives.

We have been experiencing extremes in weather conditions, which have manifested in El Niño and and its flipside, La Niña.

These are the ugly facts that require urgent and drastic changes in our relationship with Mother Nature and the other inhabitants of our planet.

I am one of the marginal voices who have warned that the wars of the 21st century would be over water and other natural resources, if no drastic measure is taken to protect these and share them equally among the people and countries of the world.

The Free State Provincial Government has declared the province a drought disaster area through a proclamation by Premier Ace Magashule.

This comes after observations of unusual rainfall trends by scientists. The policy action of government has also been informed by recommendations from experts and think-tank panels who have evaluated the data collected by scientists.

We know that since 1994, the government of South Africa has been working hard to give the the people of our country access to decent potable water for household, agricultural and industrial use and for sanitation purposes.

We also know that providing this universal access has been very costly to the government, because more people than had been expected have been gaining access to this resource, both in the formal dwellings and in marginalised parts of our country, such as informal settlements.

In the Free State, we know that mountainous areas such as Qwaqwa, Makholokoeng and Diyatalawa have been hard to reach, as government has been installing pipelines that extract water from sources situated many kilometres away.

We know that Botshabelo, as one of the biggest townships in South Africa, has not had access to water sources and decent sanitation since the days of apartheid.

The principle of enabling universal access to decent water services and sanitation has placed a huge burden on the state to reach all people in all places at once.

As a result, we have experienced the non-waterborne sanitation methods that were implemented in places like Botshabelo, e.g. “the VIP” toilet.

Whilst the intentions of the state are to eventually provide waterborne sanitation to all people in the country, the challenge of global climate change has made it imperative to think differently about this scarce resource.

Water is scarce. Water is not available in the quantities that are able to meet all the human demands.

In other parts of the world, people have started to recycle water and they have restrictions regarding access and use of water.

We know that in ther countries people who waste water pay heavy penalties.

In our country, we know that the province of KwaZulu-Natal is already experiencing water scarcity and has been implementing water restrictions.

Our own Mangaung Metro has posters all over the City warning us about the need to use water sparingly and alerting us to the water restrictions.

We need to learn new ways of preser-ving water such as:

) Use a glass of water when brushing your teeth, rather than letting the tap run while you brush.

) Do not take your time in the shower. Smear soap all over your body and then open the shower only to rinse.

) Refrain from filling the bathtub to capacity every time you wash.

) Refrain from neglecting communal taps by letting them run unattended

) Report water leaks to the local municipality.

The Mangaung Metro has a dedicated hotline and the idea is to expand this into a provincial hotline.

) Refrain from recklessly using fresh water to wash cars, fill up swimming pools and irrigate gardens.

) Find alternative means of sanitation other than water for townships and suburbs.

Make every minute a water-saving minute.

Integrity is what you have when no one is watching you.

) Mvambi is the Free State Provincial government spokesperson

Source: news24


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SA’s future water crisis linked to energy crisis

Within 35 years, South Africa will be short of fresh water which will be linked to the energy crisis. The preferred way to address this is through desalination. But unless the energy crisis is addressed, SA is destined for long-term power and water shortages primarily because power will be need to produce clean water.

Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal Thorium Limited (STL), said the solution lies in developing small thorium-based nuclear power stations, which are far

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safer than uranium-based power stations and more affordable. Thorium reactors use dry cooling or minimal water, either inland fresh water from rivers and dams or sea water along South Africa’s coastline to create energy and desalinate water.

Blench said, while many parts of Africa are dry, the thorium reactor could desalinate sea-water for human consumption and produce water for irrigation. “Millions of people die every year in Africa from water-borne diseases. Our reactor could produce clean drinking water.”

“Thorium represents an emerging and safe technology that is more efficient than uranium, produces significantly less hazardous waste and cannot easily be used for nuclear proliferation purposes,” he said. “The solution to the energy and future water crisis is to develop small thorium-based nuclear power stations deployed at these strategic locations.”

“South Africa has sufficient thorium reserves to supply the country’s energy needs for the next 100 years, which can also be used for desalination plants and for the safe production of electricity,” he said.

Blench said that thorium fuel is being tested in Norway. STL owns the rights to the thorium of the Steenkampskraal mine in the Western Cape. He said that the Steenkampskraal mine has the highest known thorium and rare earth grades in the world.

“Thorium does not produce plutonium in its nuclear waste, neither does it produce trans-uranic actinides. It is therefore a much cleaner fuel than uranium. Our associate company in Norway, Thor Energy, has manufactured thorium fuel and is now qualifying this fuel for use in commercial reactors. We will be able to use thorium fuel in our reactor,” he said.

Steenkampskraal was mined by Anglo American during the 1950s and 1960s for its thorium. About a dozen reactors were built in Germany, England and America at that time that used thorium and we believe that most of that thorium came from this mine.

“We are designing a nuclear reactor that is appropriate for Africa. Typically, African countries have a total annual electricity production of between 1 000 and 5 000 MW per year. They do not have well-developed grids to distribute electricity and currently generate a lot of their electricity with diesel generators, at very high cost.”

“These countries cannot afford to spend billions of dollars buying big expensive reactors, up to ten years building such a reactor or plug a 1 000 MW nuclear reactor into their tiny grids,” he said.

Blench said the reactor being developed will be suitable for African and remote conditions. “The reactor will be small. It will have a rating of 100 MWth (35 MW electric) and will be the right size for many African countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and many others. It will be suitable for distributed generation, so that countries that do not have good grids could build several of these small reactors in different parts of the country. It will produce electricity more cheaply than the diesel generators being used today.”

“It will also be affordable for the small countries that make up most of Africa and it will cost a fraction of the cost of large nuclear Light Water Reactors (LWRs). It will be modular and quick to build,” he said.

Blench believes that if Africa is going to embark on a nuclear future, it should leap-frog over the Generation 3 reactors and go straight to Generation 4 reactors. “The technology is available. It has been tried and tested over many years. Our reactor is a Gen 4 design. What does that mean? It means that our reactor is intrinsically safe and meltdown-proof.”

“It cannot melt down under any circumstances. The world over it is agreed that safety is the most important consideration in the nuclear industry. High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors (HTGRs) have been demonstrated on several occasions, under the supervision of the IAEA, to be intrinsically safe and meltdown-proof. Another big advantage is that they are multi-purpose and capable of co-generation.”

“There are many problems in Africa. Three of the biggest problems are food, water and power. Our plant can produce hydrogen in the form of ammonia. This ‘hydrogen’ could be used to make fertilisers to improve agricultural yields.”

“Most parts of Africa suffer from power shortages that retard their rates of economic growth and hold down their living standards. Our small plant could provide electricity for remote towns and villages all over the continent.”

Source: African Environment


 

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Majuba water outage going well

By SAPA

The planned Majuba tie-in and maintenance outage on the bulk water pipeline supplying Kriel in Emalahleni Local Municipality was under way and proceeding according to plan, the water and sanitation department said on Thursday.

“This outage started on Monday, 23 February and is planned to end on 9 March 2015,” spokesman Sputnik Ratau said in a statement.

“All prior preparations in this regard have led to a smooth start and operation of the outage over the past few days of the first week.”

The department was performing maintenance work on the pipeline, installing new valves and replacing leaking pipes with new ones as Eskom was busy with the construction of a railway line from Ermelo to Majuba power station.

The railway line crosses the department’s pipeline between Rietspruit reservoir and Davel.

“Eskom therefore requested a 1/8department 3/8 outage to tie in with the permanent deviation of the pipeline to the existing structure as per 1/8department 3/8 approved design,” Ratau said.

“The deviation of the structure has been approved by the 1/8department 3/8 engineers and the 1/8department 3/8 engineers are involved with the quality control during the construction phase.”

The department and Emalahleni local municipality were supplying water to the area through strategically placed tanks within a reasonable distance.

“The department is confident in the capacity of its workforce engaged in this task and that the work will be completed within the time targeted,” Ratau said.

“The work that has already happened gives the department the full confidence that all care is being taken to ensure there are no glitches and the work has demonstrated how single-mindedness of purpose can achieve a lot.”

The department and all stakeholders requested patience and cooperation from all who were affected so that the planned outage period was not exceeded.

The department apologised for the inconvenience caused, but the planned outage was important for maintenance and sustainability of the infrastructure, he said.

Source: IOL


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Desalination: the answer to our water crisis?

By Andreas Wilson-Späth

Supplying South Africa’s growing population with clean, safe drinking water is a major challenge. Not only is the country’s water infrastructure in need of refurbishment in some places and entirely absent in many others, but access to sufficiently large quantities of potable water is increasingly becoming a problem.

This is not only a South African problem, of course. With population and industrial growth, poor watershed management, the widespread pollution and deterioration of rivers and other freshwater ecosystems, and with the impacts of climate change becoming more apparent every year, the world is facing a water crisis of potentially devastating proportions. By 2025, the UN estimates, some two-thirds of the planet’s population could be experiencing water stress conditions, especially those living in the dryer parts of the developing world.

You might have wondered why we haven’t used desalination of seawater to help us resolve our water supply problems. After all, much of South Africa is literally surrounded by oceans of the stuff. In addition, there is plenty of brackish groundwater in inland areas that could be converted into fresh water useable in agriculture, industry and for domestic use.

The basic technology is ancient. Humans have distilled salty water into potable water for centuries. So why not now?

Large-scale desalination plants are, in fact, increasingly being used worldwide. Thousands of them are in operation – the greatest number in the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to Oman and Qatar. Most of Israel’s water already comes from such installations. The USA is home to about 300 of them and California, a state in the grip of the worst drought in history, is investing billions in the technology.

Several South African municipalities are considering desalination as part of their future water supply plans and government has suggested that in 15 years’ time as much as 10% of the country’s total urban water supply might be provided in this way.

The largest local desalination plant was opened in Mossel Bay in 2011 and mostly services PetroSA’s synthetic fuel operation there.

So what’s the problem? Although the technology has been improving steadily, there are several hitches. Most importantly it takes a lot of energy to convert salty water into fresh water.

In conventional high-pressure reverse osmosis systems, a large amount of electricity is needed to push saline water through a series of progressively finer membranes to remove salt and other chemicals. Using a more traditional distillation process, lots of electricity is used to heat water to its boiling point.

This massive energy requirement means that desalination plants tend to have large carbon footprints and contribute significantly to climate change – and thus to even worse water problems. Until now, large-scale desalination has only been a viable option for rich countries or those with plenty of fossil fuel to burn.

A secondary environmental problem results from the fact that for every litre of fresh water produced, about two litres of raw salty water needs to be processed, leaving behind significant quantities of toxic brine which can contain a variety of pollutants and represents a considerable threat to coastal ecosystem if it’s carelessly discarded into the ocean.

In a number of countries, including the Unites Arab Emirates, the USA and Australia, progress is being made in using renewable energy sources, principally the power of sunlight, to drive the desalination process. While this might be a low carbon alternative to conventional methods, the technology is still at an early stage of development and can’t be relied upon to solve our water problems at this point in time.

For now, the answer must lie in conserving existing freshwater sources. We can go a long way in countering the growing crisis by putting effort into water conservation strategies, using our precious freshwater more efficiently, with less waste, reusing water wherever possible, capturing stormwater that would otherwise just run into the sea and recycling used water whenever that is an option.

Ultimately, what’s required is a change in attitude from all of us. We need to change the way we look at water. We need to stop taking it for granted and treat it as a precious resource that needs to be treasured instead of wasted.

I’m part of a new non profit organisation called The Watershed Project. Our aim is to raise public awareness about water in all its aspects. Visit our website for more information, follow us on Twitter (@WatershedSA) and in March, join us for a festival of exciting water related activities from fun walks to outdoor film screenings (only in Cape Town for this year, but expanding to other parts of the country from 2016).

Source: News 24


 

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Too precious to waste

Clean, fresh water – our planet’s life essence – needs a new management strategy to replace the current solution for wastewater treatment that often leads to foul water being pumped directly into the rivers and seas we depend so heavScreen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.46.22 PMily upon. Water use in water-scarce South Africa is going to be ever more hotly contested, with agriculture, mining and the coal-fired energy we depend on all relying heavily on fresh water to function. The failing wastewater treatment plants and un-maintained water delivery infrastructure also contribute to thousands of litres being wasted every day. So, using clean, fresh water to flush our toilets is really an unsustainable practice we need to stop doing.

Wasting water can also cost you a small fortune (ask anyone who has had a shock bill from their municipality for a water leak they did not even know existed). What are the options available to us as consumers who want to do what we can not to add to the already overwhelming problem of water delivery? Simple – find a solution that can treat and recycle your domestic wastewater and enable you to re-use it for your garden, flushing toilets and even drinking – depending on the technology you choose. This means households with limited water access can be reassured of a constant supply of water that can be re-used and offers solutions for big housing estates and office blocks.

If we recycled just the wastewater and re-used the treated water to flush the toilets of office blocks every day, think of how many thousands of litres of fresh water would be saved. Rural communities in desperateneed of sanitation solutions can benefit from toilets that only use recycled domestic wastewater and this will have a significant reduction from the health risks associated with environmental and groundwater pollution. Some wastewater treatment options offer an element of social upliftment with their solutions and opportunities for job creation, skills transfer and training in rural communities, where wastewater plants which treat and recycle domestic wastewater are installed and serviced.

Leading the way in this full circle service delivery is Enviro Conscious Technologies – the Southern African Partner for (SBR) AQUAmax® Wastewater Treatment Systems. Benefits: Save up to 40% of natural fresh water resources Sustainable, cost-saving sanitation Reduce health risks Prevent environmental and groundwater pollution.

Source: Green Home Magazine

 

Eight unbelievable solutions to future water shortages

From growing glaciers to making rain with lasers, what are the innovative technologies that could help us tackle the global water crisis?

It’s estimated that we use 9tn cubic metres of water every year. As the global population grows, it is becoming an increasingly precious resource, with millions forced to walk for more than a mile to collect their daily supply. We investigate the innovative technologies that will help tackle our water crisis in future.

1. Growing glaciers

More than half of the world’s fresh water is stored in glaciers, 15 times more than all of the world’s lakes, rivers and wetlands combined. As a result of climate change, almost every glacier studied by the World Glacier Monitoring Service has been found to be shrinking and meltwater is simply lost to the rivers and sea.

In her book Adventures in the Anthropocene, Gaia Vince tells the story of Indian geo-engineer Chewang Norphel, who lives in Ladakh on the edge of the Himalayas and who has sought to counter the problem by growing glaciers. Norphel diverts meltwater onto little plateaux where it freezes. He has created 10 artificial glaciers this way, which can be used for water in the dry summer months.

2. A bath without water

At the age of 17, Ludwick Marishane was sunbathing in Limpopo, South Africa’s northernmost province. His friend said idly to him: “Man, why doesn’t somebody invent something that you can just put on your skin and you don’t have to bath.”Marishane did exactly that. He researched on his Nokia 6234 mobile phone, eventually formulating a lotion called DryBath. Marishane says that DryBath – a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids, and odour-eliminating chemical tawas –saves four litres of water ever session, a total of a million litres in total.

3. Ultra water efficient shower

We are all familiar with the moment. You get into the shower, turn the tap, then avoid the water until the temperature equalises. For Peter Cullin, from Adelaide, this is a problem. “Every minute of every day, in millions of homes around the world quality fresh drinking water is lost to the drain from inefficient showers.” To solve the dilemma, Cullin has created his “Cullector Ultra Efficient Shower”, a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system. If installed in 1,000 showers, Cullin says the device would save 200m litres of water a year. A similar system has been invented by Richard Ogodeton from Brighton.

4. The lifesaver bottle

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”, wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This paradox struck Michael Pritchard while watching news reports of the Boxing Day tsunami a decade ago. Clean water was being brought in on trucks as the floodwater was too dirty. To solve this problem, he invented his “lifesaver” bottle, which uses a pump to force water through a 15-nanometre filter, cleansing it of all bacteria and viruses. Since its launch, the Lifesaver Bottle has been used by hikers, aid companies and the British army in Afghanistan.

5. Rainmaking with lasers

In the 1840s, James P Espy thought burning large fires in the American west would bring rain to the east. In the 1950s, there were attempts at cloud seeding. Now, the idea of rainmaking has returned to the scientific agenda. The idea this time is to fire lasers into the atmosphere. Properly-directed pulses of light have been shown to help ice sublime and vapour condense. The World Meteorological Organisation recently debated the future use of this new technology. One of the possibilities is to use lasers to induce rain at times of drought.

6. The fold up toilet

Along with the shower, the toilet is one of the home’s greatest source of water waste. As much as seven litres can vanish in a single flush and, wanting to improve matters, two students from the University of Huddersfield have inventedIota, the folding toilet. Iota’s design is markedly different to the traditional toilet and, as such, makes more efficient use of water. Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley, Iota’s inventors, claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.

7. Leak monitoring

Despite all the water wasted inside the home – dripping taps, inefficient toilets and showers – utility companies acknowledge that as much as a third is lost to leaks before it even arrives. Tackling this problem is Zonescan Alpha, a software that pinpoints leaks and relays data back to a control centre. It works by embedding sensors throughout a network and has been successfully trialled by Albstadtwerke, a German utility company, which says it helped reduce waste by 2m litres.

8. Solar powered water purification

Hot climates suffer the most from a lack of water, making the invention of 16-year-old American, Deepika Kurup, all the more intriguing. Hailed as one of the USA’s brightest young scientists, this year Kurup was awarded the US Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her ingenious solar-chemical purification process. This involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water. “This technology is green, safe, cost effective and easily deployable,” said Kurup.

Source: The Guardian