Still on the fence about our dependence on oil? Listen to this: during the late-March rupture of an ExxonMobil pipeline in Arkansas, close to 500,000 gallons of oil and "contaminated water" was spilled around a lake near the city of Mayflower. As you can expect, local wetlands and water bodies were devastated. (1).
What does this mean for the water of Arkansas? Nothing good. There are reports of over 28,000 barrels of "oily water" being removed from the spill site after two weeks of cleanup. Animals who rely on the water are in jeopardy; their homes and sources of food have become suddenly hazardous. Twenty-nine animals have died as a direct result (3). Exxon themselves, for most of the events following the spill, has kept the citizens and the general public ignorant of the size of the spill and extent of the damage. Recent storms have also not boded well for cleanup crews (2).
Oil contamination in water supplies is never simple. Since the substance cannot dissolve, it often cuts off oxygen from aquatic life when swimming through this "sludge". It clings to anything it touches, such as feathers and fur. It blocks the sun from reaching water-based plant life by forming a layer of thick oil on the surface (4). It's toxic and disrupts ecosystems by killing off entire groups of animals and plants. Often the residues and chemicals leftover from the spill cause cancers and growth problems in future generations, like deformities in fish embryos. As seen with the BP Gulf spill of 2010, the consequences of oil pollution in water can still be felt years later. This is because even though visible oil is removed from the surface layer, tiny drops of oil remain and glob together in sediment, forming "tarballs". These tiny drops are nearly impossible to remove. (5).
This is the fresh water we need as humans to sustain ourselves. That 0.03% we've talked about. The more we pollute and abuse it, the less we have to drink. By reducing our use of oil, we also reduce the amount of water contaminated by accidental spills. We save human and animal lives.
As of today, most of the free-standing oil has been removed from Mayflower, and ExxonMobil is working to compensate those affected (1).
Works Cited: (1) "Arkansas oil spill: Timeline â RT USA." RT. N.p., 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. http://rt.com/usa/arkansas-spill-oil-exxon-325/. (2) "Arkansas ExxonMobil oil spill even worse than thought â RT USA." RT. N.p., 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. http://rt.com/usa/arkansas-exxon-oil-spill-701/. (3) McAllister, Edward. "Insight: Mayflower, meet Exxon: When oil spilled in an Arkansas town | Reuters ." Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com. Reuters, 11 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/us-exxon-spill-mayflower-insight-idUSBRE93A0PI20130411. (4) "Oil pollution « Water Pollution." Water Pollution. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. http://www.water-pollution.org.uk/oilpollution.html. (5) "Environment Canada - Publications - The Science of Oil Spills and Effects on Water Quality." Environnement Canada - Environment Canada. Environment Canada, 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. http://www.ec.gc.ca/envirozine/default.asp?lang=En&n=F8A83A04-1
Mr. Brabeck also goes on to say the genetically modified organisms are completely safe, and that "organic" is not better. He believes that water should be privatized and "given a value" like other foodstuffs. Get the facts on water privatization here, where we discuss arguments for and against going private.
Among the few toilet greywater recycling systems on the market today, Sloan's AQUS is one of the cheapest, at just $189. It is small and compact, and santizes the water effectively, but there may be some drawbacks to consider before purchasing your own model.
Sloan's AQUS greywater recycler
As you can see, the tank is quite small; it fits neatly underneath the sink in a manner that is perfect for a home without a basement or room for a large, unsightly barrel. It holds up to 5.5 gallons of filtered sink water for toilet flushing use. If using a highly efficient toilet (1.5 or 1.6 gpf) that will get you around 3 flushes if the tank is full. However, unless you are washing your hands very often or for an extended length of time, the tank may not have enough water in it at one time to flush. You may find yourself unnecessarily running the tap just to have enough water in the tank to flush the toilet. This negates the plus of cutting out 100% of the water your toilet uses, because you are adding that amount to the water you use for handwashing. Also, it plugs in; this adds to your electrical bill.
A better solution to these problems would be to have a larger tank for storing filtered greywater, or having the water come from a different, more-often-used source (such as the shower or washing machine). However, since this is a product on the market and not a project, it is pretty fixed on how it operates. Someone wanting to stop flushing with clean water altogether would have to purchase one system for as many toilets they have in the house: that can start to add up, at nearly $200 per system. At that point, the cost will outweigh the savings for at least a few years, and the saving would be less because of the added water use for handwashing.
Our solution is to build your own. A DIY greywater filter is cheap, easy to build, and specifically tailored to your needs and the layout of the house. We are in the process of building one for our own house, and if all goes well, check back soon for step-by-step instructions on how we did it.
Do you own one of these systems? Thinking of getting one? Tell us about it!
Works Cited: 1) "Canadian water use - A wretched excess? : Canadian Geographic Magazine." Canadian Geographic - Canadian Geographic Magazine. Canadian Geographic, n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013 <http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/mj00/water_use.asp>. 2) "Water in Canada." Project Blue. the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.janegoodall.ca/project-blue/WaterinCanada.html>. 3) "Environment Canada - Water - Wise Water Use." Environnement Canada - Environment Canada. Environment Canada, 16 Mar. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=F25C70EC-1>.
This is the most recent plans for my household greywater recycler. In these preliminary stages, it requires:
2 55-gallon plastic barrels (preferably food-grade)
1 garden hose
1 float plug (my design)
1 bag pool filter sand
1 bag pea gravel
? PVC pipe to attach to toilet and for overflow
1 switch for overflow redirection
1 large sponge
Greywater flows from the washing machine or shower into this barrel in the basement. The water fills the barrel, the excess runs through the overflow pipe and into the sewer, and a steady stream comes through the hose and into the 2nd barrel. The water sinks slowly through a sponge and a sand filter. To compensate for the slow filtration rate the float plug will stop the flow of water when it gets too full. The filtered water will run through another pipe and into the toilet. There are backup overflow pipes at every stage.
This model is still being resdesigned, and having the kinks worked out. Do you have any suggestions? Any questions? Please contact us (email@example.com) or comment.
Our blog is dedicated to raising awareness about the urgency of water conservation and ways you can cheaply reduce your water footprint. We've been live since early March and are eagerly trying to provide a diverse and change-inspiring medium for people who want to make a difference.
We've expanded to include a variety of environmental topics dealing with water. We're weighing in on subjects that matter today, in real time, giving you unfiltered info on the water issues you care about.
"Depriving someone of access to air by choking is murder. Shouldn't depriving someone of water also be murder, even if [in the end it] takes longer?" - georedd (Reddit user)