Cultural * - University of Chicago

Social Aspects of Water
Mandy Poole
Summer Teachers Institute, University of Chicago
June 30, 2010, 9.15-10 am
“We have the choice to use the gift of our lives to make the world a better place.”
- Jane Goodall
My Background
 University of Illinois
 B.S. Civil Engineering, 2008
 M.S. Environmental Engineering, 2009
 Experience
 Environmental Engineer at Baxter &
Woodman, Inc.
Why do we care?
 Human Impact
 on Industry
 on Tourism
 on Quality of Life
 Environmental Impact
 on Wildlife
 on Long-term Resource Protection
BP Disaster in the Gulf
BP Disaster in the Gulf
Nutrient Pollution in Qingdao Port,
Eutrophication - a process where water bodies
receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth.
Schindler, D.W. “Eutrophication and
Recovery in Experimental Lakes:
Implications for Lake Management.”
Science 24 May 1974. Vol. 184, No. 4139,
pp. 897-899.
Source: Cohen, Claire. “China’s Blooming Algae Problem that’s Swamping the Olympics.” The Guardian, 3 July
2008. Accessed online via:
Source: Cohen, Claire. “China’s Blooming Algae Problem that’s Swamping the Olympics.” The Guardian, 3 July
2008. Accessed online via:
What is water culture?
Culture: “The sum total of ways of living built up by a
group of human beings and transmitted from one
generation into another”
 Water Use & Abuse
 Attitudes toward Water Quantity and Quality
 Human Health & Hygiene vs. Environmental Health
Case Study: Los Llanos, Puebla
 2008 Collaboration between
 Universidad de las Americas, Puebla (UDLAP)
 University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign (UIUC)
 Funded by WaterCAMPWS, UIUC, UDLAP
Objective of the project:
 To provide improved water supplies to the community of
Case Study: Los Llanos, Puebla
 No industrial or domestic wastewater treatment
 Guadalajara – Acutely toxic waterway (by contact)
 Downstream communities use water for drinking
Manuel Ávila Camacho dam
(Built in 1946)
Case Study: Los Llanos, Puebla
 Final Outcome:
 Built a reservoir to provide storage of river water
 Submitted a proposal for water treatment
 Education is paramount
 Linking sanitation to health
 The chain-of-responsibility is massive:
We need progressive water policy.
 Community needs to be stakeholders
Reno, Nevada
Palm Desert, CA
In Chicago…
 Lake Michigan provides our drinking water
 Crib pumping facilities located 2-4 miles into the lake
 Sewer, Water lines usually run parallel
 Disinfect drinking water instead of fixing pipes
 Chicago River to be swimmable
 Resistance to clean-ups
Traditional Wastewater Treatment
 Designed for Solid-Liquid separation. Removal of:
 Biological and Chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD, COD)
 Metals (where needed)
 Pathogens (intermittently treated)
 Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus)
 The offenders:
 Personal Care Products (ex. Triclosan, disinfectant)
 Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (ex. Hormones)
 Pesticides
 Caffeine
 The effects:
 Endocrine disruption
 Feminization of fish (USGS study of Boulder Creek, CO)
Products with Triclosan
How could we do this better?
 Regulation at the source of generation: Stop the
problem before it starts
 U.S. EPA agreement with detergent manufacturers has
resulted in major reductions in nutrients
 Paradigm shift by consumers, producers to more
responsible chemical management and water
Need for Creative Solutions
 The water system that works for us is not the best
system for everyone
 The solutions we use are not always the best ones
 How do we fix this?
 Need socially-conscious, open-minded engineers!
 Need to get away from the $$$ bottom-line approach
 Always pair water, sanitation, & sustainability
Need for Creative Solutions
Orange County: Water Factory 21
 Drinking water sources:
 600 mile aqueduct from Northern California and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
 240 mile aqueduct from the Colorado River
Water allocation based on high-flows!
 Underground aquifer replenished by the Santa Ana
River, local rainfall, and surplus water from the
aqueducts (55% of the total)
… and the population continues to grow.
Orange County: Water Factory 21
 Wastewater “recycling” (i.e. indirect reuse)
 originally proposed in the early ‘90s  “toilet-to-tap”
 2004 = program was restarted; now implemented
 Similar wastewater reuse systems are in place in
Singapore and near Washington, D.C.
Going Forward
 We need a paradigm shift in our water culture
 It’s a privilege, not a right
 Treat water like the valuable resource it is.
 Urge for change from above while making sustainable
lifestyle choices
 What can we do? How do we make this a priority?
Further Considerations
 Philosophical debates
 Is water a basic human right?
 Why is it not prioritized?
 Economics
 Should water be privatized?
 How do we pay for it?
Water Management
 Encourage TAP water over bottled
 Rain barrels – lower peak flows to streams, WWTPs
 Use biodegradable chemicals
 Properly dispose of PCPs, pharmaceuticals
 Lower (or eliminate) use of fertilizers, pesticides
 Encourage installation of low-flow fixtures in new
construction (most impact through retrofitting)
 Push for changes in legislation!
 University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
 Baxter & Woodman, Inc.
 Jamie Bender
Mandy Poole
[email protected]
Mohan, Geoffrey. “Waste water, pay double, L.A. mayor says.” L.A. Times. 14 August
Total Water Withdrawls by Category,
Public Supply
Source: Kenny, Joan, et al. “Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005”
Circular 1344. U.S. Geological Survey: Reston, Virginia. 2009.

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