Water Quality in AndorraLocated just between France and Spain lies the principality of Andorra, a small country taking up only 468 square kilometers. With a GNI per capita of $46,650, one might assume that the nation’s water quality is top notch. However, this is not completely true, and only quite recently has water quality in Andorra seen significant improvement.

The country’s work on wastewater purification began in 1996. Since then, four water purification plants have been built in Andorra. Additionally, the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra monitors the country’s water quality by sampling at various time intervals among 37 stations.

The Ministry also actively conducts practical work on the extraction of solid wastes from rivers. Just last year, over 17 thousand tons of refuse were extracted from the Andorran river systems.

As of March 2017, the Ministry reported that the volume of high-quality surface waters in the country was about 86 percent, while eight percent was of acceptable quality, three percent was of poor quality and the remaining three percent was of very poor quality.

By comparison, only 40 percent of surface waters in Andorra were  high quality in 2005. Silvia Calvó, the Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra, stated that the country currently purifies nearly 100 percent of their sewage.

The rising water quality not only improves the drinking water for citizens, but it also helps restore river fauna habitats. The otter populations are also rising within the Andorran ecosystem.

Although it is recommended that tourists drink bottled water until their immune systems adjust to some small concentrations of E. coli that may be present in their water supply, Andorra’s citizens safely consume the water. Andorra has clearly been dedicated to cleaning their water supply through home-grown programs such as the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development in Andorra. Because of this, water quality in Andorra has improved remarkably within past decades.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

genetically modified bacteria
Over the course of the past 50 years, scientists, engineers and academics have unlocked the secrets of energy efficiency by producing technologies with the capacity to harness wind, solar and nuclear power. Scientists have additionally focused their research on developing viable oil substitutes – particularly ethanol and biomass energies – that can be used to produce heat and electricity. Yet the future of global sustainability and decreased warming will depend on the expansion and improvement of these technologies.

The Huffington Post and The Mother Nature Network recently released profiles on Dr. Ka-Yiu San, a bioengineer who discovered a method for turning plant waste into fatty acid. This fatty acid is the beginning ‘ingredient’ in a synthetic compound – a compound that can be converted into an artificial diesel fuel or oil-like lubricant. The base of the compound comes from a genetically modified bacteria, and specifically a strain of the E. coli bacteria, which “converts sugar-heavy hydrolysate (inedible cellulose from sorghum) into fatty acids.”

According to his reports, San’s fermentation process of the genetically modified bacteria “generates an 80 percent to 90 percent yield of fatty acids from what the science team calls ‘model sugars’”– a process he believes has the potential for an even greater yield. It may take numerous rounds of tests and several years, however, before the E. coli strain is ready to be used in a wide industrial setting.

San’s research hasn’t been adapted into a large scale project, but the implications of his discovery are immense for developing countries. Though some biofuels have potential drawbacks such as aggressive land, water and resource requirements, air and water pollution and increased food costs, San’s research is promising. His E. coli strand can use plant waste efficiently; this provides an avenue for agriculture based societies – like those in Africa and rural Asia – to use their abundant plant waste in a productive way. In areas where electricity and energy access is scarce, a technology like this could have an unspeakably large impact.

— Allison Heymann

Sources: The National Resources Defense Council, Huffington Post, EPA
Photo: ScienceDaily

In 2003, Liberia finally came out of a thirteen-year long civil war that ravaged the country and left the inhabitants riddled with poverty. Right after the end of the war, the unemployment rate was listed at 85 percent of the population. The populations in the slums skyrocketed and the people living there were left with little choice of where to obtain water or where to use the bathroom. During the war, rebels destroyed much, if not all, of the water and sanitation infrastructure the country once had. A decade later, much of the population is still impoverished and lacking access to the basic needs of potable water and a sanitary living area. In 2010, there were almost 4 million people living in Liberia, over 1 million of which were rural poor. However, there is a stress for clean water in slums, from where a number of people from rural areas fled to Monrovia during the fighting and violence in an attempt to find refuge. For every four people, there is one living without access to clean water and sanitation in Liberia, and for every five deaths in the country, one is a result of contaminated water sources. In fact, in 2012, the World Health Organization discovered that E. coli was present in 58 percent of the city’s water due to public defecation. This spreads illness such as diarrhea and perpetuates the issue, creating a cycle of illness through dirty water. Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has pledged to double the amount of access to safe water in four years, but has clearly fallen short of this claim. Phillip Marcelo of Rhode Island’s Providence Journal is spending two weeks in Liberia this month to investigate what progress has been made since the end of the war and the installation of democracy within the country. He notes that at the entry to the slums at West Point Beach, there is a massive pile of trash marking the place. The defecation of children is all over the beach and people are being forced to buy their water from “distributors.” While adults have been banned from using the beach as a bathroom and there are pay toilets in the slum, there is often still no other option. Because of this, the spread of cholera is common along with other water-borne diseases. The government is opening up nine new toilets for the area, but the inhabitants are not sure a real difference can be made considering there are more than 50,000 people living the area. Aid groups are investing time and money into providing Liberia with better access to clean water, with the hope that this will cease to be an issue in the coming years, if not in time to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Non-profit organization Waves for Water has raised $15,100 towards the goal of $25,000 to help provide clean water filters for over 60,000 people living in poverty in Liberia. WaterAid, another NGO, also works in Liberia and happens to be an organization for which President Sirleaf is an ambassador. Last year, they were able to reach 17,000 people and provided them with clean water or sanitation facilities. Help for Liberians is out there and there are solutions to the present issues, but it will take a while to recover completely from the devastation of the war. Simply put, it is going to take plenty of hard work and a revamp of the entire infrastructure of the country in order to change the conditions of those living in the slums of Liberia. – Chelsea Evans Sources: Providence Journal, Rural Poverty Portal, Waves for Water, PBS, WaterAid Photo: Sanitations Update [hr top]

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