To Adapt or To Mitigate- That is the Question

One of the major questions surrounding climate change is What are we going to do about it? Unfortunately, that is a very difficult question to answer. The range of possible solutions is so wide that it is close to impossible to find one solution that would work the best.

Chances are, as you sit there reading this post, you can think of at least one possible solution being discussed by scientists and in the media. Things like renewable energy, low meat diets, and decreasing your carbon footprint are commonly heard of in the news. Less heard of, at least in connection to climate change, is building safer infrastructure and flood protection or growing crops that thrive in warmer, drier climates. However, these are all important aspects of the climate change discussion. What makes these solutions different?

When considering possible climate solutions, there are two main courses of action that could be taken: mitigation and adaptation. The first, more often talked about solutions I mentioned, are examples of mitigation. They seek to reduce carbon emissions to prevent the furthering of climate change. The next group of solutions are examples of adaptation. They seek to prepare individuals or societies for the effects of climate change.

Mitigation

Mitigation considers all things carbon. Many of the policies and efforts centered around mitigation are based in the science of the carbon cycle and how carbon is moving through our environment.

Diagram of the Carbon Cycle

This is a diagram of the carbon cycle. Since climate change is exacerbated by CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, there are two possible courses for mitigation: preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere, and increasing the amount of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere. These courses of action follow the path of the carbon cycle. There are a few important things to note on this diagram. The dotted lines show possible areas from which carbon is removed from the atmosphere, also called carbon sinks. Yellow represents a land sink, while orange represents an ocean sink. While many times projects to enhance sink-related mitigation are very costly and hard to implement, improving the ability of these ecosystems to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is an effective method utilizing nature to assist in the process. Unfortunately, many of these ecosystems are being compromised by climate change, limiting their use as a carbon sink.

The other more common type of mitigation is limiting the CO2 entering the atmosphere, often through emission restrictions or use of renewable energy. Many climate change policies implement this type of mitigation solution.

Adaptation 

Flooding in New Orleans

Adaptation is the way to prepare for what is coming. Many policies based around adaptation work with a physical plan to defend against each individual impact of climate change. Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey is a great example of a city not being prepared for what came their way. Adaptation seeks to provide the best chance of surviving climate change impacts. Entwined with adaptation is environmental justice. Those who require to adapt the quickest are not necessarily even high conbributors to carbon emissions.

Still wondering about the difference between the two? Check out what NASA has to say!


A Note on Science Blogging

Category : Blog

One challenge when writing a blog is how to engage the reader- an even greater concern when writing about science. It is difficult to effectively write a science blog that is understandable and compelling without diminishing the exactness of the science you are trying to present.

I perused several climate blogs, and enjoyed this effective example from Yale Environment 360 published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. This article tackles an explanation of river system dynamics in an interesting and pertinent way. There are several strategies I want to highlight.

  1. Comparisons: To explain the idea of ecosystem resistance, the article makes a comparison to “immune systems”. This concept is understood by the majority of people and creates a distinct image of this scientific interaction. Comparisons are used effectively throughout the article.
  2. Jargon: This article does a great job of explaining terms using text and/or images before introducing necessary jargon. This strategy is key to prevent turning away readers who might not be familiar with the scientific terminology.
  3. Relevance: Amidst scientific information, this article conveys the relevance of river systems and why it is important to spend time understanding what is happening to them.

    An Example of Using Images/Text to Explain Scientific Jargon. Sample from the Article- “A new, three-dimensional illustration of a gravel-bed river system. E. HARRINGTON/EH ILLUSTRATION”

From Sea to Shining Estuary

I was going to start out with a marine-inspired rendition of America the Beautiful but I think the pun is already clear. So I will begin instead with this map of Port Aransas, courtesy of Google maps. 

I have marked on this map in orange to show the starting point of the trip I took on the Katy- the University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s research vessel. If you are interested in learning more about the trip and the research vessel, check out my post: On the Katy

Also for your reference, marked in bright blue, is the direction of the open ocean. The dark greenish blue area shown on the map is part of the estuary ecosystem.

What makes the area shown so different from the ocean that it gets its own name? Estuaries are a unique middle ground between river and marine ecosystems. As defined clearly by NOAA, an estuary is where fresh and saltwater mix.  Estuaries are home to a wide range of interesting species, due to the low energy of the system and the uniquely brackish water. In Port Aransas, the estuary ecosystem is formed by two major rivers—the Aransas River and the Mission River—hitting the ocean. We explored differences between this ecosystem and the more typical marine ecosystem while aboard the research vessel Katy.

Case Study #1: WATER

An estuary is composed of many different zones, with the end of the river called the head of the estuary, and the end just before the ocean called the mouth. The conditions between these two regions are diverse, with a significantgradient of salinity levels and variable water speeds. Estuary areas are often in protected bays or inlets, and as such water speeds are relatively slow.

Case Study #2: MUD

Similar to the water salinity gradient, there is also a gradient in the amount of ground cover over the range of an estuary system. At the estuary head, larger pebbles and stone from the riverbed tend to make up most of the ground cover. As this sediment gets pushed along with the current and weathered, it gradually becomes smaller and smaller particles increasing the turbidity of the water (amount of suspended solids) and forming the mud that we pulled up during our mud grab on the R/V Katy. This high turbidity and loose muddy bottom limits organisms that need a sturdy base to grow on, but makes the perfect home for the worms, crabs and brittle stars we found in our sample. As you move towards the mouth of the estuary, you approach the sandy or rocky bottom typical of an ocean floor.

Case Study #3: FISH

The species that live in an estuary are specifically adapted to the variable salinity waters and the high volume of suspended solids. While there are not as many species adapted for this as opposed to straight freshwater or marine systems, estuaries do play an important role in biodiversity—they are home to a lot of young species. There are many species that lay eggs in freshwater but live in saltwater, and vice versa. Estuaries serve as an important transition zone between these two parts of an organism’s life. Many of the fish species we pulled up in our trawlin the estuary area were smaller and younger fish, including a baby squid. The instructors said it is also common to pull up baby crabs or other young marine species.

Estuaries are often protected areas to ensure the safety of the unique flora and fauna and to monitor water quality. The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve is a great place to learn more about this unique ecosystem and how it is being protected.


Over the Creek and Through the Woods

…. To Barton Springs we go!

For our first of many field trips this summer, our REU group visited Barton Springs, a natural groundwater fed pool in the city of Austin. This is a prime spot of interest for those looking to escape the heat of the day as the pool’s water is around 68°F yearlong.

Barton Springs Creek

However, we weren’t there just to swim. Barton Springs is an interesting case study in biodiversity and climate effects on a karst (characterized by a lot of limestone) region. Through this trip we explored both of these aspects in person. Curious to learn more? Prior to the trip we read these three articles on the Barton Springs area and some of the issues impacting it.

After arriving in the Barton Springs complex, we hiked along the greenbelt trail to the upper springs area to explore the geologic formations in a karst region. We then went to the Old Mill Spring on the other side of the complex to discuss biodiversity. The final exploration of the day was a comparison between the surface water in the springs area, as compared to the groundwater in the Barton Springs Pool.

Barton Springs- Edwards Aquifer

The four springs in the Barton Springs Complex act as the discharge points for water from the Edwards Aquifer. These springs are part of an artesian system which means the water is under high pressure, causing its discharge to be seen at the surface in the form of a spring. There are three important features that make up this unique ecosystem, the karst nature of the site, the wide biodiversity, and the springs themselves.

1. Karst Regions

Fault Line in Campbell’s Hole Outcrop

While many karst regions do tend to be characterized by the presence of limestone, it is more correctly defined as a landscape formed by a dissolution of soluble rock material such as limestone or gypsum. At the end of our hike along the greenbelt, we crossed the creek and arrived at an area of exposed limestone from which we could examine the material that characterized this region and also to explore the rock layers in the nearby Campbell’s Hole Outcrop. One of the defining features of this outcrop— besides the easily differentiated layers—is the noticeable fault line. After our exploration of the rock layers and material, we hiked a little ways up the cliff front to the exposed fault line which is shown in the picture I took on the right.

Drought and wet conditions are especially impactful in karst regions because an increase in surface water can rapidly affect the groundwater quality because of the easily soluble nature of the rocks. Spring flow and groundwater levels can change rapidly in a short amount of time in these regions, and thus they are more susceptible to climate change.

2. The Springs

There are four springs in the Barton Springs complex: Old Mill Spring, Eliza Spring, and Upper and Main Barton Springs. These streams are connected by an intricate network of dams and other structures. It is difficult to describe the exact nature of this system from a single visit, but I think this description from edwardsaquifer.net does a great job.

Main Spring, also known as Parthenia Spring, feeds the 900′ long swimming pool. There is a dam at each end of the pool; the upper dam directs flow from Upper Spring and Barton Creek into a bypass culvert so that stormwater flows do not enter the swimming area.  Old Mill Spring, sometimes called Walsh or Zenobia Spring, is just south of Barton Creek about 450′ below the lower dam and is surrounded by a round limestone enclosure built by the Works Progress Administration.  Upper Spring occurs about 1,200′ above the swimming pool. The fourth spring, Eliza Spring, is adjacent to the swimming pool and also surrounded by a WPA structure, a deep concrete ampitheatre that used to be a swimming hole.

As a part of our field trip, we visited Old Mill Spring which is now closed to the public as can be seen by the bars in the photo on the right below. This space, along with Eliza Springs, are being preserved for their historical value but are also being reserved as habitat for the diverse range of species that take residence in the springs.

Old Mill Spring
Old Mill Spring

3. Biodiversity

Barton Springs Salamander (Photo By: Lisa O’Donnell, City of Austin)

The unique nature of the spring ecosystem makes it an ideal home for a wide range of species. Two species of concern are the Barton Springs Salamander and the Austin Blind Salamander, which are both federally listed endangered species. This spring complex is the only known home for these two salamanders, and dams and other uses of the springs have greatly reduced their numbers. As mentioned above, Old Mill Spring and Eliza Spring are being reserved as habitat for these and other species.

Reflection

Overall, I would deem this a very successful field trip with interesting ties to the project I am working on this summer. My research looks at modeling non-residential indoor water demand in Austin. So it was very fascinating to explore Barton Springs, particularly in regard to the recreational water demand aspect to see how that use compares to the usage I am tracking in my research. Many of the patterns experienced by the springs during drought and wet conditions can be similarly modeled to match indoor water demand and usage over those same time periods, especially for irrigation. I highly recommend visiting Barton Springs, both to swim in the cold groundwaters of the pool and to have a chance to experience all that this unique ecosystem has to offer.


Into the Lions (Or In This Case Longhorns) Den

I trekked across campus, and the humid heat was waiting like a welcoming party. This was the first voyage in one long summer journey. I had little idea of what to expect, as we were not provided with much in the way of a schedule. I knew that orientation was the following morning, so I took it one step at a time. In the case of walking across a campus littered with steps, that was a quite literal decision.

Waller Creek

Right off, I noticed several things about the campus. The first was the creek running through it. Waller Creek flows through campus and downtown Austin, eventually dumping into Lady Bird Lake. As it runs through campus, this thin creek is sandwiched between a highly trafficked road and the rest of campus. There are limited places for people to enjoy the creek beyond the bridges traveling over it, and certain areas may be in need of restoration; but there are currently several initiatives on the UT Campus and throughout Austin aiming to revitalize the creek area.

Compost and Recycling Bin in Dining Facility

Second, was the consistent labelling of recycling, trash, and compost bins around campus. Recycling and composting is something that many people struggle with at my home, Emory University, because it looks slightly different in every building. While UT Austin does not have composting bins in the residence halls or around campus, there is a large composting program in the dining halls. The same bins are used consistently across campus making composting and recycling simpler for residents, faculty, staff, and other university visitors, which helps to improve the success of a recycling program. Now, if only UT Austin’s success with labelling carried over to the buildings on campus, most of which are minimally or completely unlabeled. It makes trying to find your way around campus quite an adventure.

My third observation was of course the construction- no stranger to me considering the new dining facility being constructed at Emory.

As my time here continues, I will do some spotlight posts on a few places of interest around campus. Keep an eye out!

 


Carbon GPA

My family and I have been working hard all semester to improve our carbon footprint grades. And we have succeeded!

Each of our footprints dropped by 1 ton of CO2 per year when compared to just two months ago.

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Statistics of my food consumption

When I first calculated my footprint at the beginning of the school year, I had an idea of where I thought it would be. I knew my travel would be high because of my flying to and from Arizona and Emory. I also knew the home and services categories would be on the lower end because I live in a small dorm room. The category of footprint impact that I needed to improve was my food intake.

So I set the goal of monitoring my food intake to make smarter selections. Mainly, I reduced the quantity of beef and other ruminating meats in favor of chicken and other proteins that have a smaller footprint. Throughout the semester, I made active choices each time I ate.

This change alone contributed to a large portion of the 1 ton of CO2 per year that I shaved off my footprint. By further removing beef from my diet, and by substituting non-meat proteins as an alternative to meat-based meals, I could reduce my footprint even farther.

 

My carbon footprint food score dropped almost 1 ton of CO2 per year, making my score 50% better than the average single household. 

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Statistics for my family’s home energy usage

My family’s initial footprint calculation was 58 tons of CO2 per year. Their main goal for reducing their footprint is to downsize their home now that all of the children are out of the house. That is a definite goal for the future, but not something they accomplished this semester. However, they did purchase a new vehicle. Their new Subaru gets much better gas mileage than our old van did, reducing their score by one whole ton of CO2.

Even though my family did not downsize their home yet, they are participating in a new program sponsored by their current energy provider. This program allows them to purchase 50% of their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. After re-calculating the footprint score using this program for utilities, their footprint is expected to drop an additional 4 tons!

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My family was successful reducing their footprint to be 25% better than average for a household of three.

Curious about your family’s carbon footprint? Calculate it here: http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/


Recipe for a Climate Skeptic

Decades ago, the tobacco industry claimed that smoking was not correlated to health issues and that nicotine was not an addictive drug. Today, we acknowledge the opposite conclusion and view smoking negatively. It sadly took 50 years to arrive at this decision, simply because of the confusion and doubt that tobacco companies fed to the public.

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Merchants of Doubt book cover

With the “tobacco is healthy” myth debunked, it seems that industry leaders have latched onto a new topic about which to sew doubt amongst the public—climate change. The 2014 documentary “Merchants of Doubt” based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway seeks to connect the public with the facts behind the climate denial movement.

The film presents that scientists have been aware of climate changes since 1988. Yet 28 years later we are still debating whether or not climate changes are occurring, and if those changes are a result of human activity.

A major claim by climate skeptics is that there is not enough scientific evidence to back up climate change. The reality is that 97% of scientists believe climate change is occurring, and 87% think it is due to human activity. And there is a wealth of supporting scientific research.

But as was observed with the tobacco industry, if you confuse the public they will lose their own opinions. Unfortunately, the disconnect between public opinion and science leaves an opening for critics to sew further doubt, enough to create a skeptic.

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The film points out that climate skeptics represent only a small sample of the population, and they have an economic interest in the continuance of climate change. These skeptics frequently are members of organizations that serve as fronts for the oil and coal industry. These organizations operate for profit, not for environmental protection. So climate skeptics prefer to bend the world to their opinions rather than loose revenue by admitting to scientific evidence.

Climate change is often improperly portrayed in the media. In order to present both sides, interviews usually include a climate supporter and a climate skeptic facing head-to-head. The same climate skeptics are featured repeatedly in the media, and climate supporters are usually scientists.

Both people have credentials that without further investigation seem to be important and relevant to the issue, leading the public to believe that both sides have credibility. Seeing both perspectives side-by-side leads the public to be unsure of which to trust more, thus creating public divide.

Only 50% of the American public believes that climate change is occurring and that humans are the cause. The urgent matter is to find ways to overpower the voices of the skeptics to show the other half of the country that climate change is an issue affecting them now.

This road is not easy. As shown in the film, many prominent climate scientists receive death threats because of their work. Protests for environmental justice are often shut down. One scientist was arrested three times during protests. The same occurs today, as with the protests at Standing Rock.

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Signs at a climate protest

 

At this moment in history, our lives are being dictated by a select few who want to risk the planet for their own gain. If these merchants of doubt can be exposed for who they really are, and if the public works together to address this global issue, deniers would quickly lose the climate war. And just as the public has been enlightened to the dangerous impacts of smoking, so too can the world understand the dooming impacts of climate change.

 

 

Want to learn more about misrepresentation of climate change in the media? Check out this statistically accurate climate debate from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuGCJJUGsg


Science… Only Part of the Equation

Tags :

Category : Environment Blog

Every year, 2.7 million people die as a result of ambient, or outdoor, pollution. An even more astonishing fact is that close to double that number die from indoor air pollution.

photo from: https://esaikawa.wordpress.com
Photo of Professor Saikawa from: esaikawa.wordpress.com

This tragedy is the foundation of Emory University Professor Eri Saikawa’s research. I had the pleasure of interviewing her recently to discuss her work.

Professor Saikawa originally started her career as a modeler, studying the relationship between pollution and ambient emissions. When she learned that negative effects from indoor pollution are much worse than ambient, she wanted to explore it herself. She began a research project to study the impact of burning yak dung as a fuel for heating and cooking in Tibetan households.

Have you ever thought of culture as being an integral part of scientific research? It is what makes her work “interesting but challenging,” Saikawa says.

This study produced fascinating scientific results, and it also revealed a different side of science and the impact that culture can have. Science showed that purchasing chimneys, using alternative fuel sources, and improving ventilation would all help to decrease harmful indoor emissions in Tibetan households, but no one wanted to do it. Why? Culture.

Tibetans have been using yak dung as a fuel source for generations. Saikawa described that many families were aware of pollution within their homes but were not worried about the health impacts.

People often relate ambient pollution to its contribution to climate change, and Tibetans are very worried about climate change. There is a snowy mountain peak that the Tibetan people consider holy. They watch fearfully as the snow recedes further each year and disappears.

However, indoor pollution is a more serious and immediate issue for them than climate change. It is a problem of human health, and as a result should receive very different attention.

Photo by Qingyang Xiao
Photo of Tibetan household by Qingyang Xiao

Professor Saikawa described how one of her biggest challenges was getting the Tibetans to “perceive the environmental risk and see it as a problem.” Unlike the very visible cue of the mountain losing its snow, the impacts of indoor air pollution are not as easy for people to recognize as a problem.

In general, healthcare is not well promoted. When Professor Saikawa visited Tibet, she noted that the nearest healthcare facility was an hour drive from the rural villages. The people did not view it necessary to spend their time going to get healthcare.

The health risk caused by breathing in emissions from burning yak dung in their homes without proper exhausts and ventilation is immediate. In other countries having similar indoor air quality problems, scientists went in with fancy chimney and stoves but they have gone unused. People simply continued in the same ways they always had.

In addition to overseeing the research, Professor Saikawa has to balance her personal views of the situation with how Tibetans think and act. The difficulty resides in how much responsibility we have over the situation. It is important to protect people from negatives health effects while still respecting their culture.

In situations like these, it is not enough to rely on the science of the issue. Saikawa described this as one of the main problems facing the scientific community. She described her experience in Tibet as very positive and eye opening to their way of life and how “you can only understand how people live by going through what they do.” A good lesson for all of us!

Want to learn more about Professor Saikawa’s research? Check out this article on Emory’s eScience Commons: http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2015/01/yak-dung-burning-pollutes-indoor-air-of.html

Or read the full research article here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231014009327


The Upside of Downsizing

The challenges faced by a college student, such as myself, are quite different from those faced by a whole household. I don’t have to think about home maintenance or paying the electricity bill. The most I have to worry about is vacuuming the carpet in my dorm room that always seems to be dirty.

Many people would pass these differences off as the luxury of being a college student before being thrown into the real world, and in a sense it is. My family’s carbon footprint is about 5x larger than mine is as an individual living on campus. However, there are only 3 people currently in my family’s household, meaning that each individual takes on a larger portion of the footprint, each a whopping 19 tons of CO2 per year compared to my 12 tons. That is a lot even considering my family’s footprint is 18% better than the average household of a similar size.

parentalfootprint
Graph of my family’s footprint in tons of CO2/ year

What accounts for such a large carbon footprint in the household? It comes back to that luxury of being a college student, and simple common sense. A larger living space ⇒ more energy needed for things such as electricity ⇒ bigger carbon footprint.

This turned out to be one of the largest issues for my family’s footprint. The home section of the footprint calculation was 58% worse than average carbon emissions for a 3-person household.

This was a little surprising for my mother who thought that the extra insulation, low energy windows, energy-rated appliances, and other features purposefully installed in the house made for an energy efficient home.

However, the house was constructed 12 years ago, and it is really designed for a larger family, not the three people living in it currently.

My mom stated that this was one of the most important things she learned from calculating her carbon footprint.

Even if you make choices to be more sustainable, they must be done in the necessary scale to have the impact that you imagine them to have. My parents plan to look into other options to improve energy efficiency, and will be downsizing when they buy their next house.

parentalcfootprint
My family’s footprint compared to similar households

So considering the size of the house and the maintenance required for upkeep, it makes sense that my family’s household footprint is larger than mine here at college. But how much do the individuals in the household contribute to the footprint? More than you might think.

As I discussed in the analysis of my carbon footprint, food was one area where I had a lot of room to improve. My family had similar results except now there are three people making those same carbon-emitting choices. If even one of those people is able to reduce his individual carbon footprint from food, it would lower the footprint for the whole household, and that is exactly the challenge my brother set for himself.

My parents set individual goals that will decrease overall footprint when accomplished. My dad plans to decrease the infamous vampire electronics (chargers that still use energy when not in use), and my mom will organize errand strategies to decrease overall driving time and mileage.

Surprisingly, travel was one area my household was below average, where many other families tend to be high. Although we rack in a lot of miles flying, our drive time is unusually low, especially now that I am out of the house. It helps that my dad seeks out fuel-efficient vehicles when purchasing a car. While there is definitely room for improvement in all areas of carbon emissions, travel is one where my family is already making great steps towards reduction.

Curious about your family’s carbon footprint? Calculate it here: http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/


The Water Cycle- Reclaimed

waterhub-header

Prior to spring of 2015, Emory used about 1 million gallons of potable water every day, with nearly half of that put toward mechanical uses like heating and cooling. That’s a lot of drinkable water wasted—especially when California is experiencing a major drought and the Tri-State Water Wars are happening right here in Georgia.

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WaterHub logo photo I took during my visit

What changed in 2015? Emory’s multi-award winning facility WaterHub began operation. WaterHub reduced potable water usage 40% on campus by recycling wastewater, providing an alternative source of water for use in mechanical systems. This facility provides an important role in reusing and reclaiming water.

The WaterHub is a triple win. Water entering the hub is routed directly from sewer lines, helping to reduce stress on wastewater treatment plants. Emory pays for the recycled water that is produced, generating profits to support the facility while saving money compared to water costs from other sources. The environment is the third beneficiary!

Let’s explore the process that creates such benefits!

INITIAL SCREENING

Imagine the water you find in a sewer. It’s pretty gross right? The WaterHub process removes all the gross and leaves the water looking clean. A lot of your gross vision of sewer water was due to visible contaminants, most of which is some form of solid waste. Screening devices filter out those solids, and the cleaner—but probably still very discolored water—moves on to the next phase of the process.

MOVING BED BIOREACTORS 

mbbr
Diagram of the Bio-Reactors at the WaterHub facility

The wastewater flows through a series of moving bed bioreactors (or MBBR for short). These four tanks contain small plastic discs with holes, designed to provide the largest amount of surface area possible. Microbes grow on these plastic pieces, and they remove small contaminants and chemicals from the water.

Surface area, surface area, surface area! That is a mantra you hear over and over in wastewater treatment. The greater the surface area, the bigger the number of microbes present, and the larger the amount of contaminants removed from a volume of water. The design of this system allows 400,000 gallons of water to be cleaned every day!

HYDROPONIC SYSTEM 

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The “greenhouse” of the WaterHub. Photo taken during my visit.

The next component is the hydroponic system, which makes a visit to the WaterHub feel like a greenhouse stroll. The water tanks are housed underneath a variety of green plants, allowing their roots to extend into the water. These root systems contribute a lot of surface area and provide a great habitat for microbe growth.

 

 

RECIPROCATING WETLANDS

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Example of the reciprocating wetlands at the WaterHub

Emory’s WaterHub is especially unique because it is actually two different water treatment systems. The greenhouse with the MBBR is the main one processing most of the water. A second smaller unit called the reciprocating wetlands cleans around 1200 gallons of water each day.

Unlike the main system, the wetlands are outside and grow a different variety of plants. The plants still provide lots of surface area for microbial growth, but instead of continuous mixing like in the MBBR, the wetlands employ the concept of tides. There are two main basins using a series of 18 tides per day to move water throughout the process.

CLARIFIER AND ULTRAVIOLET

After passing through one of these systems, most of the large-particulate contaminants have been removed. Water then travels very slowly through a clarifier to filter out fine particles with the help of chemical treatment. And next through a disc filter to remove the smallest particles.

The water now passes the government’s test for being re-use quality! Just to be sure, the water moves through one last series of tanks where it is exposed to UV light, making it ultra clean.

The WaterHub’s state-of-the-art techniques create a huge difference in water usage at Emory! Every day, thousands of gallons of drinking water are saved from the fate of being used for operating mechanical systems. All thanks to reclaimed water that is distributed to campus for the steam and chiller plants, and even to residence halls for toilet flushing.

Recent news: the WaterHub team is exploring possibilities to expand the project to new sites and to apply the technology for other uses. For example, Matt, the senior project manager who led our great tour, described how the reciprocating wetlands model could be used in developing countries as an effective but cheaper wastewater treatment mechanism.

Check out plans and policies to advance sustainable water use at this government site: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/White_House_Water_Summit_commitments_report_032216.pdf

Eager to learn more about the WaterHub? Visit its website http://sustainablewater.com/waterhub/or explore the benefits and responsibilities of the WaterHub by clicking on an icon below.

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