Rainwater can be drinking water

By: UNIID SEA - 2014-06-26

by Ariane Lim
Ateneo de Manila University

In an article in Inquirer last June 13, The US Department of State warned the Western Pacific, including the Philippines, of around 31 typhoons between June and November 2012. Half of which would have the potential to cause severe destruction.

Later on in an August 6 article by Manila Bulletin it was reported that PAGASA the recorded July rainfall exceeded the average by 75% despite the climate being in neutral conditions, (although July data points to a slight EL NINO condition this year). PAGASA senior weather forecaster Mario Palafox stated in the same article that since he started being a forecaster 17 years ago, this is the only time it’s happening now.

True enough to data and tables, we are struck by calamity that rivals (or maybe even have beaten) the Ondoy onslaught. And as history has its own patterns, people rise-up to help as much as they could. Rescuing people from flood bringing them food and water or going to the area washed by flood ourselves to bring food and water—trucks of them—when it’s pouring hard and the water is waist deep.

Why are we bringing truck loads of bottled water when they were already hit by water, in water and being trickled by it?

“Well, duh, because they can’t drink it.”

Well, did you know it’s clean?

Facts About Water

Before you start thinking that I’m suggesting you to drink flood water, here are two important facts about water from Charles Fishman’s book The Big Thirst: (link to his book)

1) Water can be cleaned. Always. No matter how dirty we humans make water, we can clean it back to the point that it’s drinkable again.

2) You can’t use up water. Remember your science? Matter can’t be destroyed. It only changes from one form to another.

With these two in mind, here are two other things (found in the same book) to ponder on:

1) Water scarcity is often the direct result of bad water management by people.

2) Water itself isn’t becoming scarcer; it’s simply disappearing from places where people have become accustomed to finding it in a certain quality such as drinkable water.

In our commercialized world, those plastic containers have become a symbol for cleanliness. Of course, educated with science, we know how the filters and various treatments rid water of germs and impurities and that bottled water in some parts of the world is “dirtier” or at par than tap water.

But it hasn’t always been like this.

Bottled water is a modern creation not older than our grandparents. A product of clever marketing that took the world by storm in the late 70s, it wasn’t something born out a need, but rather a created want.

Years ago, our ancestors saw wells to be a symbol for clean water and years before that our ancestors in the mountains thrived in rainwater. Mother Earth is a great recycler and filterer. The water seeps to the ground passing through layers upon layers of grains and rock and becomes clean 80 ft. below ready for some settler to dig it out and through the water cycle where Mother Earth essentially ‘boils’ water clean in evaporation, rainwater isn’t so bad.

An entry from the American Journal of Public Health shows that harvesting rainwater (yes, for drinking) in Australia increased 40% between 2004 and 2007. Plus, in their research, the untreated rainwater did not contribute appreciably to community gastroenteritis.

Facts About Rainwater
“But that’s not the Philippines, that’s Australia and what about air pollution?”

The Philippines isn’t that bad. We’re not even in the top 10 of the most air-polluted countries. And it should be because:

1) The Philippines is an archipelago. We have constant currents of both air and water that contributes to clean air by dissipating pollution not allowing to reach enough density to cause damage

2) We’re near the Pacific. Remember the 31 typhoons to hit us? Well that also means more currents, more movement for clean air and water vapour.

If you don’t buy that, at least agree that water is a good cleaning agent.

As said in Fishman’s book, water is a good cleaner precisely because “cleaning” is another way of saying “dissolving”—water dissolves stuff and carries it away. It’s always looking around for anything it can enfold and carry away.

Now think of air pollution then think of rain.

Each rain drop falling hundreds of feet carrying the pollutants with it to the ground. Yes, it would make rain a tad bit dirty won’t it, the first few minutes of rain water will be relatively dirty but after that it would almost like boiled water falling down.

That much rain cleaning our air, coupled with floods that stopped most cars from travelling and the Philippines geographical location makes for one heck of a clean phase.

That is to say at one point; rainwater was very much adequate for drinking.

Gather the Rain
At a state of calamity, especially our usual sort of calamity, it is advisable to gather rain especially when it has rained for several days. The only way it would be very dirty is if the container you used to gather is already dirty.

There is really no absolutely clean water in an uncontrolled space. In fact because of the cleaning nature of water, it’s very hard to clean it to the last molecule. In fact pure water is very very dangerous and toxic to humans.

Fisher tells the account of IBM that uses ultra-pure water (UPW) to clean very small electron pathways in microchips. And to attain that UPW it has to go through the reverse-osmosis process, huge, specialized filter beds to take out ions, tubes filled with UV light to blast apart any organics and going through 20 nanometer pores filter.
Sure you get water that’s 10 million times cleaner than regular tap water but you won’t be able to drink it because it’s so bitter and would suck the nutrients out of your body immediately !

Solar Rain Technology
As designed by Paul M. Cabacungan, Operations Officer of the Ateneo Innovation Center, Solar Rain gathers rainwater and cleans it for assurance by using ceramic filters and afterwards blasting it with UV rays. Sounds a bit familiar? To add to that, it taps into solar energy aside from its battery reserve. Rain or shine as long as it’s day, there is solar energy. The weather just affects its intensity.

Related links: Ateneo Innovation center brings green solutions to resettlement siteSolar Rain Project on Facebook

About the Author

UNIID-SEA works with universities and research councils in Southeast Asia to promote action research and facilitate the development of programs that support innovation for inclusive development (IID). Contact Info: Ateneo School of Government Pacifico Ortiz Hall, Fr. Arrupe Road, Social Development Complex, Ateneo De Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines 1108 Tel: +63 2 426 6001 locals 4646, 4639 Telefax: +63 2 929 7035 Email: info@uniid-sea.net Website: www.uniid-sea.net


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