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Kenya’s New ATMs Bring Clean, Affordable Water to Nairobi’s Slums

The easy-to-operate machines mean impoverished Kenyans will no longer be stuck buying water from price-gouging vendors.

Image via Grundfos.

The Kenyan government is installing water vending machines in the slums of Nairobi to address the city’s increasingly dire lack of clean water accessibility. In partnership with a Danish water engineering company, they’ve placed four of the water ATMs, which can be accessed with “smart cards,” around the impoverished neighborhood of Mathare. Users store “water credits” on their smart cards, which they can then use to purchase clean water. A simple swipe of the card sends water gushing out of a pipe into whatever container is positioned to collect it.

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It's Not Rocket Science: Students Need Clean Drinking Water

Imagine the only drink available to you is from a vending machine. There’s no water fountain to take a sip from or use to fill a bottle for later.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWwzzGag3Hc&feature=youtu.be

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from The California Endowment, Health Happens Here in Schools.

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Mermaids Are Awesome: Small Town Hairdresser's Alter Ego Fights for Clean Water

With her seashell bra and gold lame´ fin, Vira Burgerman crusades for a healthy coast. She's taking her message to the global mermaid community.

Vira Burgerman makes a living styling hair in a cute little town on the Russian River in Sonoma County, California, but she grew up working on commercial fishing boats in nearby Bodega Bay, and she's got an unusually strong connection to the sea. These days when she's not clipping and perming, this 46 year-old assumes an alter ego—the California Mermaid—and she dolphin kicks at the drop of a captain's cap for just about any watershed protection event, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

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Superb Idea: The Rainwater Pillow

Here's an interesting contraption for rainwater collection:The Rainwater Pillow system.



Here's an interesting contraption for rainwater collection:
The Rainwater Pillow system consists of an intake filter connected to a flexible water storage bladder, and an outflow hose powered by a small integrated pump. The standard 1,000-gallon Rainwater Pillow measures 9' x 11' x 2.5', and it can be positioned in any convenient spot (such as underneath a deck). ... According to the manufacturer, a roof measuring 40' x 40' would provide enough runoff during one inch of rainfall to fill the 1,000-gallon Pillow.

So this system is better than a rain barrel if you want to be able to collect large volumes of rainwater for use in your yard or garden. It would work especially well, I'd imagine, in single family homes. It has enough water pressure for yard irrigation, has overflow valves, and features a remote control for the pump if you want to store the pillow itself someplace out of the way.

At $2,200 it's pretty expensive, but in Los Angeles a family might spend upwards of $100 each month on outdoor water use. At that rate, this system could actually pay itself off. And, of course, it helps prevent polluted runoff from flowing into storm drains.

Thanks, Jordan.

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Seawater: Our Only Hope for a Drink

Desalination of seawater has become a necessity, but it has to be done right.

Desalination of seawater has become a necessity, but it has to be done right.


As any globe will reveal, there's no shortage of water on Earth. Unfortunately, over 97 percent of it is too salty for us humans to drink, and only a tiny fraction of what remains is in the rivers, lakes, and groundwater that we're able to easily access.

In much of the world, these freshwater supplies are growing scarce, and competition for these resources promises to be one of the hot-button geopolitical challenges of the next 50 years and beyond. As climate change worsens droughts, accelerates desertification, and whittles away glaciers (the water towers providing life to so much of the world), it's no wonder that some experts are looking towards that enormous pool of salty water for a drink.

It's not a novel idea. Nearly 50 years ago President John F. Kennedy noted, "If we could ever competitively, at a cheap rate, get fresh water from salt water, that it would be in the long-range interests of humanity which would really dwarf any other scientific accomplishment."

About 2,300 years before Kennedy said that, Aristotle was already experimenting with the idea. Since then, desalination-or the process of removing salts from ocean or brackish water-has been proven possible, and employed in some form for ages. Around 200 AD, sailors boiled seawater and captured the salt-free evaporation when they ran out of drinking water supplies. This "thermal desalination" process can be scaled, but the costs are, for most, prohibitively high; most of the larger-scaled projects that took root were in the oil-rich and water-poor Middle East.

In the past couple of decades, though, a more promising, scalable solution has surfaced-reverse osmosis. Bear with me as I revisit high school chemistry. Take a semi-permeable membrane that water molecules can travel through, but not larger sediments like salt. Put very salty water on one side and less salty water on the other, and water will travel through towards the salty side until the concentrations are even. That's osmosis. Alternately, apply pressure to the saltier side, and water flows through the membrane, but the salt gets stuck. That's reverse osmosis, and the result is fresh water. And that's how most modern day desalination plants work.

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