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Water 101


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The drive to find alternative technologies and sources for fresh drinking water has been driven by significant population increases over the last 100 years, especially in urban areas. The 250 million U.S. residents living today have access to about the same amount of water as U.S. residents did 200 years ago, when the population was only four million. In the U.S., more than 80% of the population lives in or near an urban area. These areas have seen a population increase of more than 19% over the last 10 years. This increase puts significant demands on the supply of fresh drinking water. Most urban water comes from wells, and the levels of aquifers have suffered such declines in the last 10 years that many cities will need alternative water sources to sustain population increases projected over the next quarter-century. Surface water levels have not only declined, but they are contaminated with chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals and more as a result of agricultural and industrial run-off. Levels of these contaminants continue to increase at an alarming rate posing multiple health threats.

Though fresh water is a renewable resource, the world’s supply of clean, fresh water is steadily decreasing. Water demand already exceeds supply in many parts of the world, and as world population continues to rise at an unprecedented rate, many more areas are expected to experience this imbalance in the near future just three percent of the world’s water is fresh. Of that, most is locked in the ground, glaciers, or ice caps. That leaves only one percent of fresh water available as drinking and agricultural water for the world’s 6.6 billion people. As the population grows, so does the demand for water—but at two to three times the rate of population increase. People consume water for drinking, for hygiene, for food production, and in a variety of industrial processes.

Due to the expanding human population, competition for fresh water is growing such that many of the world’s major aquifers are becoming depleted. Millions of pumps of all sizes are currently extracting groundwater throughout the world and this fresh water is being extracted at an unsustainable rate.

Solutions to the fresh water epidemic include more advanced reverse osmosis (R.O.) systems for the home and community desalination. R.O. systems waste a great deal of water. The better systems require three gallons of water to make one gallon of purified water. But these systems do not remove all water contaminants. Desalinated water requires huge amounts of energy and ready access to a salt water source. The waste products include salt and other contaminants that have to be disposed of further contaminating soil and water supplies.

BOTTLED WATER IS NOT BETTER

There has been an explosion in bottled water use in the United States, driven in large measure by marketing designed to convince the public of bottled water’s purity and safety, and capitalizing on public concern about tap water quality. People spend from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water.

Some of this marketing is misleading, implying the water comes from pristine sources when it does not. For example, one brand of “spring water”, whose label pictured a lake and mountains, actually came from a well in an industrial facility’s parking lot, near a hazardous waste dump, and periodically was contaminated with industrial chemicals at levels above FDA standards.

According to government and industry estimates, about one fourth of bottled water is bottled tap water (and by some accounts, as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water) — sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not.

NRDC contracted with an independent data verification firm to confirm the accuracy of our positive test results. Still, the testing was limited. The labs tested most waters for about half of the drinking water contaminants regulated by FDA (to control costs). They found:

Nearly one in four of the waters tested (23 of the 103 waters, or 22 percent) violated strict applicable state (California) limits for bottled water in at least one sample, most commonly for arsenic or certain cancer-causing man-made (“synthetic”) organic compounds.

Another three waters sold outside of California (3 percent of the national total) violated industry-recommended standards for synthetic organic compounds in at least one sample, but unlike in California, those industry standards were not enforceable in the states (Florida and Texas) in which they were sold.

Nearly one in five tested waters (18 of the 103, or 17 percent) contained, in at least one sample, more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity “guidelines” (unenforceable sanitation guidelines based on heterotrophic plate count [HPC] bacteria levels in the water) adopted by some states, the industry, and the EU.

The U.S. bottled water industry uses HPC guidelines, and there are European HPC standards applicable overseas to certain bottled waters, but there are no U.S. standards in light of strong bottler opposition to making such limits legally binding.

In summary, approximately one third of the tested waters (34 of 103 waters, or 33 percent) violated an enforceable state standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines, or both, in at least one sample. We were unable to test for many microbial contaminants, such as Cryptosporidium, because the logistics and cost of testing for them post-bottling were beyond our means.

Four waters (4 percent) violated the generally weak federal bottled water standards (two for excessive fluoride and two for excessive coliform bacteria; neither of the two latter waters were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria in our testing of a different lot of the same brand).

About one fifth of the waters contained synthetic organic chemicals — such as industrial chemicals (e.g., toluene or xylene) or chemicals used in manufacturing plastic (e.g., phthalate, adipate, or styrene) — in at least one sample, but generally at levels below state and federal standards. One sample contained phthalate — a carcinogen that leaches from plastic — at a level twice the tap water standard, but there is no bottled water standard for this chemical; two other samples from different batches of this same water contained no detectable phthalate.

In addition, many waters contained arsenic, nitrates, or other inorganic contaminants at levels below current standards. While in most cases the levels found were not surprising, in eight cases arsenic was found in at least one test at a level of potential health concern.

Current statistics indicate that the annual per capita consumption of bottled water in the U.S. will increase from 110 gallons per year in 2006 to more than 127 gallons in 2009.

Bottled water sales and consumption continue to rise, according to statistics released April 9, 2007, by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC).

While the growth rate in bottled water sales in the U.S. has slowed somewhat from a rate of over 12% annually earlier in the decade, estimates are that it is still growing about 10% annually. It is a significant business in the United States, generating about US $10.8 billion in sales annually. It is also estimated that for the first time, sales of bottled water has exceeded the sales of either beer or coffee in the U.S.

More and more health alternatives of bottled water are expected to come into the market that may be a threat to its continued growth. The biggest threat to bottled water sales is likely the increased focus on environmental issues. This has become a major news item in 2007 with criticism directed at the environmental impact of landfill problems created by the bottles themselves. It is argued that the positive benefits of better quality water are mitigated by the need to either recycle of dispose of all the plastic or glass used in the bottles. The manufacture, storage and transport of the bottles is estimated to consume 17 million barrels of oil per year. The argument is that tap water is essentially acceptable and that the costs related to energy could have been diverted to better use elsewhere. The costs of pollution and landfill costs from all the bottles may be even higher than the energy consumed.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS:

  • Of 103 brands tested, 25% contained chemical or microbiological contaminants.
  • One third of all bottled water comes from public water utility systems and are really not “special” waters.
  • The EPA notes court cases where bottled water companies claim that their water comes from glacier or spring water when the water is actually pumped from city water sources.
  • A single carcinogen, methylene chloride, may leach into bottled water from the polycarbonate resins used to make PET bottles.
  • Bottled water wastes energy, increases carbon emissions, and causes litter. Only 20% of all empty water bottles get recycled. The rest wind up in landfills.

MUNICIPAL (CITY) WATER SYSTEMS ARE NOT NECESSARILY BETTER THAN BOTTLED WATER

There is a misconception that municipal water supplies in the U.S. are of such poor quality that bottled and packaged water is far safer and better to consume. While studies indicate that the U.S. water infrastructure is extremely old and deficient, surprisingly tap water is at least as good, and in some cases better, than bottled water.

Here are some facts:

  • 15 million U.S. families obtain their drinking water from unregulated, domestic wells.
  • An estimated 2 million U.S. household water supplies may fail to meet the federal standards.
  • Chlorine levels in many domestic U.S. household systems exceed the maximum allowable chlorine levels for swimming pools!
  • A single parasite (Cryptosporidium) caused more than 100 deaths and made 400,000 people ill when it was found in Milwaukee’s drinking water.
  • Certain water contaminants are not even regulated, such as the gasoline additive MTBE.
  • Water testing is conducted at municipalities after chemical treatments, not on water from our tap.
  • Leaching adds contaminants as water passes through antiquated and inadequately maintained city pipes adding lead, copper, iron, vinyl chloride, bacteria and microorganisms to drinking water.
  • According to a 1999 EPA report, there are nearly 30 million Americans served by water systems that violate minimal health standards.
  • According to a 1999 EPA report, there are nearly 30 million Americans served by water systems that violate minimal health standards.
  • The World Health Organization has estimated one case of cancer for each individual chemical in drinking water for a population of 100,000.
  • The State of California has 8,146 regulated systems that reported 4,296 violations in one single year!

THE PROBLEM AND THE SOLUTION

If well, reservoir and bottled water are not pure sources of water, then is there a dependable technology that can assure us of a pure supply of water regardless of water supply levels? The answer is “yes”. First we have to understand where this water is and then determine how we can extract it for consumption.

THE WORLD’S LARGEST AND RENEWABLE SOURCE OF FRESH WATER

There are 3.1 quadrillion gallons of water in the atmosphere or an estimated volume of 3100 cubic miles of water in the atmosphere at any one time. This amount never varies. It has been and always will be there. Some falls as rain or snow and the remainder is trapped as water vapor. If this water vapor can be tapped, then individuals can have a dependable and unlimited fresh water source for their homes.

But how can it be tapped?

INTRODUCING REMARKABLE DEWPOINTE® ATMOSPHERIC WATER SYSTEM

AWS spent nearly four years to engineer the dewpointe® as the most dependable and cost-effective atmospheric water system in the world.

The dewpointe® is a compact water-generating and water purification system for home and office use. At less than 110 pounds, and standing just 43 inches tall, the dewpointe® consumes less electricity than a small refrigerator yet can create from two to twelve gallons of pure drinking water a day. The only limitation to its production levels is air temperature and humidity levels. The higher the temperature and humidity, the more water the dewpointe® can create. The dewpointe® features numerous international patents and proprietary processes for its condensing and it’s multi-stage water purifying process.

CREATING RAIN

The dewpointe® takes moisture out of the air by condensing it onto a cold surface. Rain is created in much the same way. When warm air containing water vapor meets colder air, water droplets condense around small particles in the air forming raindrops. Have you ever poured a cold glass of water on a hot, humid summer day? If you have, you have seen the moisture condense on the glass. This is because when air cools, it cannot hold its moisture any longer. If you leave the glass on a table long enough, and if the air is humid enough, a large pool of water will form.

AFFORDABLE PURE DRINKING WATER

Unlike bottled waters that can cost more than $20 a gallon, the dewpointe® creates water for less than fifty cents a gallon.

ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE

dewpointe® water uses less energy to produce its water than standard bottling or desalination processes, it eliminates the need for plastic water bottles which take oil, energy and cause pollution to manufacture, it reduces carbon emissions caused by transportation and delivery of bottled and packaged water, and it uses a renewable source of water without damaging the environment.

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