Letters & Opinion

No Water Rationing Necessary

Image of Bud Slabbaert
By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

THERE is no reason for water rationing at any time. Seriously. The thing is that you have to know how to make it work and accept new ideas and technology. It is affordable also. The problem is that unusual ideas finds lots of resistance until there is no alternative left, and then it is hailed as a genius idea. What do you think that astronauts drink aboard the International Space Station? There is a severe drought up there; worse than on St.Lucia! It doesn’t rain on a space station and the supply space ships don’t bring tanks of water. So, how do they survive? All moisture released aboard the space station is captured including, yes, you may have guessed it; I said ALL. It is then recycled and reused to provide astronauts with potable water. It is no rocket science.

“The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle and having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.” Guess who said that? Does the name Bill Gates ring a bell? The founder of Microsoft and according to Forbes Fortune 500, the richest person on the planet. What planet? Did he go to space? No he didn’t! With almost 80 billion US$ he is the wealthiest man on Earth. If he is that rich, then why is he is not dinking Vittel or some exotic boutique water? ‘Typical rich eccentrics,’ you may say, ‘don’t know what to do with their money.’ Bill is not an oddball. He is extraordinary and he is smart! He self-made his source of wealth whilst being a university drop-out.

Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavours, donating large amounts of money to various scientific research programmes through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation aims to improve sanitation in poor countries. A few years ago, Bill Gates asked people to try to reinvent the toilet as a possible solution to the problem. One of the results was the development of a machine called ‘Omniprocessor’. It converts raw sewage into clean drinking water, electricity and ash, and it produces enough excess energy to power itself. NASA uses a different method for its space station. So what may have sounded wicky wacky when you started reading, absolutely is not. It could even be part of a solution for Saint Lucia. How come?

Imagine! The people of Castries can produce potable water. They cannot actually produce it but they can rather be the source of it. As a rule of thumb, sewerage per capita is essentially the same as water use. Castries discharges approximate 1.5 million gallons of sewage and waste water on a daily basis. About half of that number thus 750,000 gallons can be returned as potable water. “Easily,” I was told by an expert. It could be 1 ½ times as much, thus something in the area of 1 million gallons. It all depends heavily on what technology of filtration is used. Doesn’t that make you think in a time when water is rationed? So where does the brew flow right now?

‘Castries is served only with a wastewater collection system which discharges raw sewage into the marine environment via a near shore outfall,’ the United Nations Environment Programme – Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) says it so diplomatically. Where is that ‘near shore out fall’? Less diplomatic about it was an article in THE VOICE on April 4 with the headline: ‘Excessive Pollution in Castries Harbour’. It says: ‘For the past thirty years several thousand gallons of raw sewer has entered Castries Harbour in the eyes of all and sundry. This cannot be right….’ No, that isn’t right, because using the above figure over a 30 year period it amounts to 16 billion gallons. To round it off how bad it is, a comment from a Dutch master-diver who worked on the recent salvage of the sunken tugboat. He describes the water condition down deep as follows: “It smells bad, you normally don’t smell anything, but (here – Ed.) you can smell through your helmet that it is the waste of human beings.” Badabing, bada boom!

To summarize it, something that could be precious in a time of water rationing, goes down the drain into an open toilet bowl. Let’s face it. How much sense does that make? ‘You never miss the water till the well runs dry’ is a proverb that means people are not grateful for what they have until they lose it. What stands in the way of drinking reclaimed water? It’s called the ‘Yuck Factor’. Psychologists say the aversion is deeply held and difficult, but not impossible to overcome. The disgust comes from intuitive concepts of contagion. However that concept decreases with familiarity, and desperation overrides anything for survival, according to these specialists. There may still be enough ways to produce drinking water. But, water for the laundry becomes critical. Forget car wash. No water for industrial purposes either. What if there is not enough water for agricultural purposes? Imports and increasing prices! Loss of local farmer’s revenues. What does water rationing do to a tourism industry? What if the greens on the golf course turn yellow? Recycled water is a solution. Rainfall you cannot control. But reclaimed water is a dependable, locally-controlled water supply unless the whole population of Castries is going on vacation, and flushing is no more.

What does a waste treatment plant cost? For a capacity of 15,000 people, it takes a capital investment of somewhere between 10-12 million UD$ at least. It can take about 8-12+ months to build. It requires land acquisition and excavation. Not to forget that a pipeline needs to be built from the current ‘near shore out fall’ to the location of the new treatment plant. ‘Is there an alternative?’ It all depends on whether you have a panoramic vision. ‘Tell us about it anyway!’

Saint Lucia’s problem is not unique. It is a global problem and it affects billions of people. That means, there is a need and a huge market for a solution. What if Saint Lucia turns its own problem into an opportunity? Create an industry that can make the economy flourish and contribute as much to the GDP as currently the tourism industry on the island does. It could reduce unemployment and increase wealth. ‘Tell us more!’ I’m not going to. ‘Why not?’ Because it scares the heck out of me that someone else walks away with the idea. That would leave Saint Lucia just with its treatment plant and the lucrative opportunity goes elsewhere. There are moments when a man has to hold back on what he says. ‘But please, just tell us something about the opportunity?’

If I had to list all the areas where drought can cause a humanitarian crises, where even without the drought there is a lack of drinking water, plus all the areas where that lack proper sanitation and water treatment, this newspaper would be filled front to back. According to the estimates of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, 36 per cent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. It doesn’t mention any drought. That comes on top of it.

9 Comments

  1. Slabbaert:

    What a load of kaka ! You begin with the most ambiguous first paragraph ever written since humans migrated out of Africa some 800,000 years ago, then you proceed to tell us about Gates being the richest man in the world ? he is a college drop-out – who cares ? and in the end you plead the fifth amendment because someone will steal your Nobel Prize idea that the experts told you about ? are you a high school drop-out ? or a snake-oil salesman ? ” Badabing, bada boom!” ? ‘garcon las semen GWEN FLO’

  2. I do not think people should get ahead of themselves on these type of ideas. How about just starting with some basic sanitation which will stop all this crap from poisoning everyone. There needs to be a crackdown on plastic waste as well. Too much of this is killing us.

  3. @ Son-of-man: A very interesting comment you make. In fact, I appreciate any comment. From your comment I take it that you yourself have a suggestion for solving water shortage problem that also solves a sanitation problem, and can do so worldwide. So, tell us about it. You will have a curious audience.

    1. SLABBAERT :

      There was a recent article in this informative News Paper of Record discussing the various alternatives to dealing with the drought, at which time I mentioned the drought conditions in California, a State if it were a country would rank in the Top Ten Economies in the world.

      The Governor Jerry Brown, ordered a reduction in water usage by 25 % in all communities in an attempt to mitigate the destruction of this drought hoping to avert a pending catastrophe to his State.

      One of the major problems to drought is the prohibitive cost of production of palpable water from any source. We know that producing drinking water from the ocean is energy intensive, costing near $10/gal. EC. Countries like Saudi Arabia can afford to build Desalinization plants producing drinking water from the sea.

      Unless you have developed some new process of distillation that does not involve thermal vibration and high pressure filtration of “G-leau Kaka” you need to stop hallucinating. However, if you have some process to accomplish production of drinking water from “G-leau Kaka” at less than the amount mentioned above I want a piece of this lucrative action – see I have no objections becoming the RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD. Here’s my address 50 Brazil Street, Castries, California, USA.

    2. Slabbaert:

      If a solution to the drought problem was easy and simple, without a prohibitive price tag, California would be wet and Saudi Arabia would have rivers. BUT, I’m in if you want to share your New Secret Noble Prize process with me, since I can apply my knowledge of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics in your GET-RICH-QUICK scheme. lol.

  4. @ Son-of-man: I appreciate your response. I have no clue how many readers are following us. Very often with any publications, the day after it is published it not on people’s mind any more. I can tell you from own experience as publisher, editor, etc. So at the bottom, I will give you my email address and we can correspond in more detail if it is a constructive way of communicating. Just to get some things clear. I’m not in this for the money per se. From my portrait you can see that I’m not in the age of looking for career opportunities or start up new business venture. If on my portrait I like young, I’ll take it as a compliment. I have no intention of becoming extremely wealthy because I would not know what to do with the money. Believe it or not, I live a humble life and I am satisfied with it.
    I write my articles as food for thought. I don’t blame politicians, organizations, or company. I don’t play blame games. I’m only looking for solutions. In that regard, I’m not claiming that I have a Nobel Prize idea. If anything it could be called a different approach or different concept that was not considered yet.
    As for not wanting to provide more specifics, I see an opportunity for St.Lucia as a country and community to get something out of this if it wants to make something out of it. I must add to it that I don’t reside on St.Lucia, have no business on St.Lucia and I’m not an investor. I reside on St.Maarten. But, St.Maarten does not have a water rationing problem. If I don’t get the feedback that food for thought is welcome or needed in St.Lucia, I personally don’t have a problem with that, I can write it for different audiences elsewhere. If they want to pick it up, I will support such and I can drive matters forward. My aim is to find solutions that can be applied globally.

  5. As for the water rationing and drought in St.Lucia read this:
    http://www.stlucianewsonline.com/forecasters-say-effects-of-drier-2015-rainy-season-will-be-felt-next-year/ which was actually published in various media otside St.Lucia and outside the Caribbeant. It may make one think, should we try to find a solution now or are we just waiting to see what happens.

    As for the topic, I see that you do have an interest and know some things about it. That pleases me, because than we get at a level for a constructive exchange of communication. I have researched it also. I don’t write without research. The drought problem is a worldwide problem and should not be underestimated. Sometimes it depends on seasons, but more worrying is that it is related to climate change. Simply said, it doesn’t go away. Because populations are growing. Seawater levels will rise. So, the problem is quite complex and for sure a solution has to be found. After all the research I did, I have come to a solution that does make an awful lot of sense.
    So, now that we got some issues out of the way,
    my email address is cdrbud@gmail.com
    and I always stand for what I write with my name. I have no reason for some kind of cover, I’m impartial and independent.

  6. Cmdr Slabbert/
    Many ideas get even the blessings of the FDA, get mass marketed -and lo and behold in less than a decade- the lawyers come forward for their large payouts via class action suits for major systemic defects in the product.
    Nature intended excrement as a total disposal system.
    There are extreme as in NASTY microbes/ VIR– USES that may be expelled via this natural excretory system.- including blood borne pathogens.
    Most extremely diseased victims pass microscopic to macroscopic quantities of BLOOD in their STOOLS.
    Please inform us of the fail safe filtration system that will destroy mankind’s most lethal blood borne pathogens while maintaining even potable water standards.
    Do you understand why the MAD MAX movie series are so popular: It is science fiction that is very close to being non fiction
    It has been stated that the largest WAR stimulant in the middle East <Golan Heights for example) is not religion nor oil but limited and dwindling reservoirs of natural WATER.
    During the Clinton era and earlier a gallon of Poland Spring Bottled water cost more than a gallon of regular octane gasoline.
    Yesterday on either NBC or CBS morning news during my commute- I watched your proposal come to life. The reporter was investigating a comp\any that turned crap water into drinking water and drank it on live TV.
    I do not buy this promotion.
    I bet you the orthodox Jews of America will not buy it either. Neither will the status quo who can afford to buy from the expensive limited resources.
    With no diresp\ect to the messenger, this is the opening salvo in a modern version of Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat Cake"
    This is preparing the lower classes to settle for less than potable water consumption because the limited dwindling supplies are earmarked for the lucrative commercial bottling companies.
    Recall plantation era when the slaves had to "glamorise" p\igs feet, tail, and intestines" because the choice meat was earmarked for the upp\er classes.
    SAME animal in new clothes!!!

    1. Mach Beth. I really appreciate your comment. It is important to have open and honest discussions that could lead to a good understanding and help in finding solutions. Again, I’m only providing food for thought and food for discussion. I am not a scientist. But, I do research what I’m writing about. I always want at least two opinions from different sides before I would make a case.

      I do know that there are various stages of filtration of the effluent. Depending on its purposes a filtration method could be applied. If the water is just released in the marine life it has to be safe for the environment. If the water will be used for industrial or agricultural purposes in needs added filtration. If it was used for drinking water it would also be sterilized.

      Would I drink it? I would probably have the same psychological problems that most others have and not put up a smiling face for promotion and act as if I am enjoying it. So, I’m very honest with you. Would I try it? If I had reasons to believe and it was assured to me by qualified persons that it is safe, yes I would try it and drink some but not much if I didn’t have to. But would make coffee with or take a shower in it. Let’s go to the extreme. If I was shipwrecked in rowboat on the ocean and did not have any potable water anymore, you can be sure that I would drink my own urine to survive. The salt water would eventually kill you. It is proven that the urine will indeed help survival in such circumstances. Now back to a normal island situation. I reside on St.Maarten. They have desalination plants. And yes, I drink that water, make my coffee and tea with it, and I’m healthy; no problems. Other people refuse to drink it, and only buy bottled water in the grocery store. Each his own.
      I agree that any kind of commercial promotion should be looked at carefully and skeptically. It is not always the way as they are presented, and yes, most of the time there is a greed for profits behind it.
      Again Mach Beth I am thankful for your comment and I wish that more comments would come since constructive and positive discussions can lead to solving problems and getting misunderstandings out of the way.

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