I 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
I 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 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
After 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
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
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
Everywhere you look, you find data. There is data from invoices, storage records and delivery records. There is data from millions of machines: sensors, meters, smartphones, CC TV cameras, industrial machines and endless gizmos. Then there is social data coming from Facebook likes, tweets, youtube views and more. There is data about data. As the world gets “smarter” with more collection of data, it is also getting more cluttered. Continue reading