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Concept: Water supply


BACKGROUND: Urban slums in developing countries that are not recognized by the government often lack legal access to municipal water supplies. This results in the creation of insecure “informal” water distribution systems (i.e., community-run or private systems outside of the government’s purview) that may increase water-borne disease risk. We evaluate an informal water distribution system in a slum in Mumbai, India using commonly accepted health and social equity indicators. We also identify predictors of bacterial contamination of drinking water using logistic regression analysis. METHODS: Data were collected through two studies: the 2008 Baseline Needs Assessment survey of 959 households and the 2011 Seasonal Water Assessment, in which 229 samples were collected for water quality testing over three seasons. Water samples were collected in each season from the following points along the distribution system: motors that directly tap the municipal supply (i.e., “point-of-source” water), hoses going to slum lanes, and storage and drinking water containers from 21 households. RESULTS: Depending on season, households spend an average of 52 to 206 times more than the standard municipal charge of Indian rupees 2.25 (US dollars 0.04) per 1000 liters for water, and, in some seasons, 95% use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 liters per capita per day. During the monsoon season, 50% of point-of-source water samples were contaminated. Despite a lack of point-of-source water contamination in other seasons, stored drinking water was contaminated in all seasons, with rates as high as 43% for E. coli and 76% for coliform bacteria. In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, monsoon and summer seasons were associated with significantly increased odds of drinking water contamination. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings reveal severe deficiencies in water-related health and social equity indicators. All bacterial contamination of drinking water occurred due to post-source contamination during storage in the household, except during the monsoon season, when there was some point-of-source water contamination. This suggests that safe storage and household water treatment interventions may improve water quality in slums. Problems of exorbitant expense, inadequate quantity, and poor point-of-source quality can only be remedied by providing unrecognized slums with equitable access to municipal water supplies.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Water quality, Drinking water, Waterborne diseases, Water treatment, Water supply, Water supply network


Diarrheal disease (DD) due to contaminated water is a major cause of child mortality globally. Forests and wetlands can provide ecosystem services that help maintain water quality. To understand the connections between land cover and childhood DD, we compiled a database of 293,362 children in 35 countries with information on health, socioeconomic factors, climate, and watershed condition. Using hierarchical models, here we find that higher upstream tree cover is associated with lower probability of DD downstream. This effect is significant for rural households but not for urban households, suggesting differing dependence on watershed conditions. In rural areas, the effect of a 30% increase in upstream tree cover is similar to the effect of improved sanitation, but smaller than the effect of improved water source, wealth or education. We conclude that maintaining natural capital within watersheds can be an important public health investment, especially for populations with low levels of built capital.Globally diarrheal disease through contaminated water sources is a major cause of child mortality. Here, the authors compile a database of 293,362 children in 35 countries and find that upstream tree cover is linked to a lower probability of diarrheal disease and that increasing tree cover may lower mortality.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Demography, Population, Water, Ecology, Child, Water quality, Water supply


We analyzed differences in pediatric elevated blood lead level incidence before and after Flint, Michigan, introduced a more corrosive water source into an aging water system without adequate corrosion control.

Concepts: Water resources, Drinking water, Water supply, Corrosion, Water crisis, Lead poisoning, Blood lead level, Deficit irrigation


With more than a billion people lacking accessible drinking water, there is a critical need to convert nonpotable sources such as seawater to water suitable for human use. However, energy requirements of desalination plants account for half their operating costs, so alternative, lower energy approaches are equally critical. Membrane distillation (MD) has shown potential due to its low operating temperature and pressure requirements, but the requirement of heating the input water makes it energy intensive. Here, we demonstrate nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation (NESMD), where highly localized photothermal heating induced by solar illumination alone drives the distillation process, entirely eliminating the requirement of heating the input water. Unlike MD, NESMD can be scaled to larger systems and shows increased efficiencies with decreased input flow velocities. Along with its increased efficiency at higher ambient temperatures, these properties all point to NESMD as a promising solution for household- or community-scale desalination.

Concepts: Oxygen, Energy, Water, Temperature, Heat, Drinking water, Water supply, Desalination


Groundwater is a life-sustaining resource that supplies water to billions of people, plays a central part in irrigated agriculture and influences the health of many ecosystems. Most assessments of global water resources have focused on surface water, but unsustainable depletion of groundwater has recently been documented on both regional and global scales. It remains unclear how the rate of global groundwater depletion compares to the rate of natural renewal and the supply needed to support ecosystems. Here we define the groundwater footprint (the area required to sustain groundwater use and groundwater-dependent ecosystem services) and show that humans are overexploiting groundwater in many large aquifers that are critical to agriculture, especially in Asia and North America. We estimate that the size of the global groundwater footprint is currently about 3.5 times the actual area of aquifers and that about 1.7 billion people live in areas where groundwater resources and/or groundwater-dependent ecosystems are under threat. That said, 80 per cent of aquifers have a groundwater footprint that is less than their area, meaning that the net global value is driven by a few heavily overexploited aquifers. The groundwater footprint is the first tool suitable for consistently evaluating the use, renewal and ecosystem requirements of groundwater at an aquifer scale. It can be combined with the water footprint and virtual water calculations, and be used to assess the potential for increasing agricultural yields with renewable groundwaterref. The method could be modified to evaluate other resources with renewal rates that are slow and spatially heterogeneous, such as fisheries, forestry or soil.

Concepts: Agriculture, Water, Hydrology, Aquifer, Groundwater, Irrigation, Water supply, Deficit irrigation


Background. Naegleria fowleri is a climate-sensitive, thermophilic ameba found in the environment, including warm, freshwater lakes and rivers. Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is almost universally fatal, occurs when N. fowleri-containing water enters the nose, typically during swimming, and N. fowleri migrates to the brain via the olfactory nerve. In 2011, 2 adults died in Louisiana hospitals of infectious meningoencephalitis after brief illnesses. Methods. Clinical and environmental testing and case investigations were initiated to determine the cause of death and to identify the exposures. Results. Both patients had diagnoses of PAM. Their only reported water exposures were tap water used for household activities, including regular sinus irrigation with neti pots. Water samples, tap swab samples, and neti pots were collected from both households and tested; N. fowleri were identified in water samples from both homes. Conclusions. These are the first reported PAM cases in the United States associated with the presence of N. fowleri in household plumbing served by treated municipal water supplies and the first reports of PAM potentially associated with the use of a nasal irrigation device. These cases occurred in the context of an expanding geographic range for PAM beyond southern tier states with recent case reports from Minnesota, Kansas, and Virginia. These infections introduce an additional consideration for physicians recommending nasal irrigation and demonstrate the importance of using appropriate water (distilled, boiled, filtered) for nasal irrigation. Furthermore, the changing epidemiology of PAM highlights the importance of raising awareness about this disease among physicians treating persons showing meningitislike symptoms.

Concepts: Water, Nasal cavity, Water supply, Naegleria fowleri, Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, Nasal irrigation, Neti pot, Naegleria


A bioelectronic nose for the real-time assessment of water quality was constructed with human olfactory receptor (hOR) and single-walled carbon nanotube field-effect transistor (swCNT-FET). Geosmin (GSM) and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), mainly produced by bacteria, are representative odor compounds and also indicators of contamination in the water supply system. For the screening of hORs which respond to these compounds, we performed CRE-luciferase assays of the two odorants in heterologous cell system. Human OR51S1 for GSM and OR3A4 for MIB were selected, and nanovesicles expressing the hORs on surface were produced from HEK-293 cell. Carbon nanotube field-effect transistor was functionalized with the nanovesicles. The bioelectronic nose was able to selectively detect GSM and MIB at concentrations as low as a 10ngL(-1). Furthermore, detection of these compounds from the real samples such as tap water, bottled water and river water was available without any pretreatment processes.

Concepts: Human, Water, Water pollution, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Water quality, Drinking water, Water supply


Safe and sufficient quantity of water is necessary for a healthy growth of human beings. The gap between water demand and available water supply is increasing day by day. Proper sanitation, especially decentralized approach, can solve the problem of water supply and wastewater management and that can be done by reuse of greywater. Typically, from a household, greywater (GW) flow is around 65 % of the total wastewater flow. Further light greywater is around 50 % of the total GW. Hence, GW has a high potential for recycle and reuse. The aim of this article is to reveal the present state of art in GW treatment and to identify the further scope for research. Present article contains a review on per capita GW generation, GW characteristics, and its treatment. Around 22 treatment systems comprising different treatment processes are discussed in detail for removal efficiency of pollutants, effluent concentrations and their compliance with wastewater reuse guidelines and standards. Constructed wetland and filtration were found efficient in the removal of most of the reuse parameters compared to other technologies. Anaerobic followed by aerobic system with post-disinfection unit may be a sustainable option for GW treatment for reuse. There is a need to develop the technologies for GW treatment at household level to increase the reuse practises at grass root level. Further, there is need of development of flow diagram with different technologies by targeting the type of reuse (flushing, gardening, agriculture, etc.).

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Sanitation, Water supply, Reclaimed water, Greywater


Integrated water environmental management in a rapidly urbanizing area often requires combining social, economic and engineering measures in order to be effective. However, in reality, these measures are often considered independently by different planners, and decisions are made in a hierarchical manner; this has led to problems in environmental pollution control and also an inability to devise innovative solutions due to technological lock-in. In this paper, we use a novel coupled system dynamics and water environmental model (SyDWEM) to simulate the dynamic interactions between the socio-economic system, water infrastructure and receiving water in a rapidly urbanizing catchment in Shenzhen, China. The model is then applied to assess the effects of proposed socio-economic or engineering measures on environmental and development indicators in the catchment for 2011-2020. The results indicate that 1) measures to adjust industry structures have a positive effect on both water quantity and quality in the catchment; 2) measures to increase the labor productivity, the water use efficiency, the water transfer quota or the reclaimed wastewater reuse can alleviate the water shortage, but cannot improve water quality in the river; 3) measures to increase the wastewater treatment rate or the pollutant removal rate can improve water quality in the river, but have no effect on water shortage. Based on the effectiveness of the individual measures, a combination of socio-economic and engineering measures is proposed, which can achieve water environmental sustainability in the study area. Thus, we demonstrate that SyDWEM has the capacity to evaluate the effects of both socio-economic and engineering measures; it also provides a tool for integrated decision making by socio-economic and water infrastructure planners.

Concepts: Effect, Effectiveness, Pollution, Wastewater, Sustainability, Water resources, Water supply, Reclaimed water


What happens to tap water when you are away from home? Day-to-day water stagnation in building plumbing can potentially result in water quality deterioration (e.g., lead release or pathogen proliferation), which is a major public health concern. However, little is known about the microbial ecosystem processes in plumbing systems, hindering the development of biological monitoring strategies. Here, we track tap water microbiome assembly in situ, showing that bacterial community composition changes rapidly from the city supply following ~6-day stagnation, along with an increase in cell count from 103cells/mL to upwards of 7.8 × 105cells/mL. Remarkably, bacterial community assembly was highly reproducible in this built environment system (median Spearman correlation between temporal replicates = 0.78). Using an island biogeography model, we show that neutral processes arising from the microbial communities in the city water supply (i.e., migration and demographic stochasticity) explained the island community composition in proximal pipes (Goodness-of-fit = 0.48), yet declined as water approached the faucet (Goodness-of-fit = 0.21). We developed a size-effect model to simulate this process, which indicated that pipe diameter drove these changes by mediating the kinetics of hypochlorite decay and cell detachment, affecting selection, migration, and demographic stochasticity. Our study challenges current water quality monitoring practice worldwide which ignore biological growth in plumbing, and suggests the island biogeography model as a useful framework to evaluate building water system quality.

Concepts: Bacteria, Water, Water quality, Valve, Drinking water, Water supply, Water supply network, Tap water