Celebrating International Day of Action for Rivers, plus the Great Bubble Barrier. In biotech, Wasser 3.0–removing microplastics from water, and California’s solar panels-over-water canals pilot project.
Celebrating International Day of Action for Rivers, The Great Bubble Barrier, Removing Microplastics From Water, California’s Solar Canals Project
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR RIVERS
Happy 25th International Day of Action for Rivers! Today, March 14. According to International Rivers.org, rivers are key to restoring and maintaining the world’s biodiversity. River systems are the zone of Earth’s highest biological diversity – and also of our most intense human activity.
Did you know that two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water every day? That’s the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population, every day. That’s why in March 1997, in Curitiba, Brazil, participants of the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams adopted the International Day of Action Against Dams and For Rivers, Water and Life. Furthermore, they decided that the International Day of Action For Rivers will take place on March 14.
It’s a day dedicated to solidarity – when diverse communities around the world come together with one voice to say that rivers matter. That communities having access to clean and flowing water matters.
Each year has unique a theme for the International Day of Action For Rivers. In 2021, the theme was ‘Rights of Rivers.’ It demanded that rivers be declared a national asset and given legal rights to stop the rivers from becoming dumping sites for waste and sewages. This year appears to be fighting for biodiversity.
Environment enthusiasts conduct workshops, seminars, and activities to celebrate this day to raise awareness and spread the message. So, let’s take a stand against the activities that harm the rivers and protect them at all costs. Click on the links in the Deeper Dive section of this story @ theclimate.org/episodes to find out ways to participate. Happy International Day of Action for Rivers!
But this is not to be confused with World Rivers Day. That’s on September 26th.
CALIFORNIA’S SOLAR PANELS-OVER-CANALS PROJECT
Last month, the state of California announced a $20-million grant for a pilot program with the Turlock Irrigation District (TID), a central Californian water and electric utility. The project is to erect solar panels over existing portions of its canals. California built water canals to transport water from the Pacific Northwest all the way to southern California. The transported water is used both for irrigation and drinking. Given the water is both not native to California and expensive to move, maintaining water purity while also reducing the amount lost to evaporation are top priorities.
One research study estimates that about 23% of the water that flows through a canal is lost through evaporation. The goal of this first-in-the-nation type project is to:
- generate renewable electricity, while
- reducing water evaporation from the canal while
- improving water quality through reduced vegetation growth while also
- reducing canal maintenance by reducing vegetation growth
Why does TID’s solar panel project matter to us? As insane a number as it sounds, the solar panel covers could prevent the evaporative loss of about 63 billion gallons of water annually. That’s enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland, or enough to meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people. All that while generating about 13 gigawatts of electricity each year, almost 15% of California’s current installed capacity.
THE GREAT BUBBLE BARRIER– A SMART SOLUTION TO PLASTIC POLLUTION
As reported by The Climate Daily, only 10 rivers on the planet are responsible for over 50% of all plastic pollution that winds up in the oceans. That’s because densely populated urban areas are causing pollution of our precious waters. In fact, 80% of those plastics coming directly from land. Every minute, the equivalent of one full garbage truck of plastic trash is dumped in the sea. That’s 1440 trucks per 24 hours and in total 8.8 million tons per year.
The Great Bubble Barrier® stops plastic before it enters our oceans. It creates a barrier stopping plastics from flowing past, but it also allows fish and ships to pass through the barrier unimpeded. The Bubble Barrier comprises three main components: the bubble curtain, the compressor, and the catchment system.
The bubble curtain is created by a perforated tube on the bottom of the waterway where air is pumped through using compressed ambient air. This generates a screen of bubbles that blocks plastics and directs suspended plastics to the surface. Electric compressors are optimized for the bubble curtain and tailored to the requirements of continuous operation and to any location-specific characteristics.The diagonal placement of the bubble curtain in the waterway guides plastic waste to the side and into the catchment system.
The catchment system is designed to work in harmony with the bubble curtain to collect and retain plastics. Following collection, it will be removed for processing and reuse. The catchment system can be adapted to the local infrastructure at the site, for example, to accommodate how it will be emptied by local authorities.
Why does the Great Bubble Barrier matter to us? It’s a surprisingly simple technological solution to catching river-borne plastic before it reaches the ocean. It’s further proof that simple technology could be the most robust.
DEEPER DIVE: Bubble Barrier
WASSER 3.0, THE NEXT IN REMOVING MICROPLASTICS FROM WATER
Wasser 3.0 is a non-profit company founded in 2020 and based in Karlsruhe, Germany. The founder of the company, Katrin Schuhen, a chemist, inventor and entrepreneur, believes that access to clean and safe water is a human right. That belief inspired her to do something totally different. The company developed the first filter-free process for removing microplastics and micropollutants from water. To take on this task it developed a hybrid silica gel compound called Wasser 3.0 PE-X® which sort of acts like a clumping agent.
The company’s three-pronged approach to microplastics? Detect, remove, reuse. As water goes through a drain it forms a swirl and that’s when the compound is added. The microplastics form lumps around the compound and then rise to the surface of the water. From there, you simply skim the top of the water.
One of the company’s current projects is a long-term test of their product Wasser 3.0 PE-X at the Landau-Morlheim sewage treatment plant, in western Germany. In just the two years since the company launched, it’s won several prizes including the Aquatech Innovation Award, and Next Economy Award from the German Sustainability Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2021 Social Innovation Tournament, sponsored by the European Investment Bank Institute.