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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


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


Water desalination becomes an increasingly important approach for clean water supply to meet the rapidly growing demand of population boost, industrialization, and urbanization. The main challenge in current desalination technologies lies in the reduction of energy consumption and economic costs. Here, we propose to use charged nanopores drilled in a graphene sheet as ion exchange membranes to promote the efficiency and capacity of desalination systems. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we investigate the selective ion transport behavior of electric-field-driven KCl electrolyte solution through charge modified graphene nanopores. Our results reveal that the presence of negative charges at the edge of graphene nanopore can remarkably impede the passage of Cl(-) while enhance the transport of K(+), which is an indication of ion selectivity for electrolytes. We further demonstrate that this selectivity is dependent on the pore size and total charge number assigned at the nanopore edge. By adjusting the nanopore diameter and electric charge on the graphene nanopore, a nearly complete rejection of Cl(-) can be realized. The electrical resistance of nanoporous graphene, which is a key parameter to evaluate the performance of ion exchange membranes, is found two orders of magnitude lower than commercially used membranes. Our results thus suggest that graphene nanopores are promising candidates to be used in electrodialysis technology for water desalinations with a high permselectivity.

Concepts: Electric charge, Water, Molecule, Atom, Potassium, Electrolyte, Water supply, Desalination


Membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI) is a water desalination technology based on applying a voltage between two oppositely placed porous carbon electrodes. In front of each electrode an ion-exchange membrane is positioned and between them a spacer is situated, which transports the water to be desalinated. In this work we demonstrate for the first time that up to 83% of the energy used for charging the electrodes during desalination can be recovered in the regeneration step. This can be achieved by charging and discharging the electrodes in a controlled manner by using constant current conditions. By implementing energy recovery as an integral part of the MCDI operation the overall energy consumption can be as low as 0.26 kWh per m3 produced water to reduce the salinity by 10 mM, which means that MCDI is more energy efficient for treatment of brackish water than reverse osmosis. Nevertheless, the measured energy consumption is much higher than the thermodynamically calculated values for desalinating the water, and therefore a further improvement in thermodynamic efficiency will be needed in the future.

Concepts: Energy, Water, Electrochemistry, Thermodynamics, Water supply, Desalination, Reverse osmosis, Chennai