Cape Town: When the Worst Case Comes To Pass

 

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Declining water storage levels in Western Cape’s largest six dams. Courtesy Climate Systems Analysis Group

The news that Cape Town had just enough water to last until April sent shock waves throughout the world last month. It is one thing to talk about the world running out of water and another to actually read news that a city would officially run out of water on a particular date. Continue reading

Fill up my glass please

10914959_10152898586948778_6325900801743596033_oI still remember the first time I asked for water at a restaurant in Germany. “Gas?” he asked and I said “No, water.” Again he asked if I wanted gas and again I said water. It was really getting very perplexing with me wondering how Germans managed to drink water in gaseous form. It all became clear when a bottle of sparkling water arrived at my table, of course and there was some righteous indignation when I later saw how much it cost (after converting to Singapore Dollars).

Over the years, I have followed the stories of tapwater being served or not in restaurants. Turned out that Germany was a special case in Europe where tapwater was also charged. In the United States, I was happy to note that getting tapwater (and free!) was not a problem at all. The bigger problem was to get it without ice and at room temperature. Continue reading

The obliviousness of water footprints

Shopping Supermarket Market Goods Food MeatI was sitting next to a Texas-based businessman from Saudi Arabia on the plane. He was highly amused to see me eating vegetarian. “If you give me vegetarian, I will throw it away and eat you!” he joked and bared his teeth.

I gulped and organised my thoughts on how to use this teachable moment to talk about water footprints without being offensive. He was already well-aware that vegetables were more healthy than meat but didn’t care because he’d rather live short and eat what he loved than live long eating vegetables. He wasn’t even co-relating his numerous health complaints like gout with diet. Caring for animals’ feelings would not cut ice with him because his favourite hobby was hunting.

“How do you like to drink toilet water?” I asked. Continue reading

Thailand’s inventor king who left his imprint on water resources

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Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-ruling monarch (1946-2016) has passed away. For Thais who are less than 70 years old, he was the only king they ever knew – an adored father figure and a unifier. But the water sector will remember the king for an unusual achievement – rainmaking. Continue reading

Myanmar on the cusp of change

IMG_1506After decades of isolation, Myanmar is welcoming investments and technical expertise from international organisations. Its water and wastewater sector needs to be built up from scratch. Will Myanmar be able to avoid the mistakes made by countries in the region? Continue reading

Water quality is not just a developing country issue

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Pollution of America’s drinking water is in the news again. 15 years ago, when I saw the Oscar-winning Erin Brokovich, it opened my eyes to the horror of industrial water pollution in the developed world. Continue reading

Drugging our waters

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A recent visit to Denmark made me realise that the global challenge of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in wastewater was even more onerous than I thought. Despite being one of the most sustainable countries in the world, and equipped with advanced water technologies, Denmark has managed to build its first full-scale dedicated WWTP for treating hospital wastewater only recently. Most hospitals are discharging their wastewater to municipal treatment plants, which as insiders know too well, are woefully inadequate to deal with PPCPs. Continue reading