During the final preparation stages for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, journalists covered the peculiar conditions of their and the athletes’ living quarters for the duration of the sporting event, including water quality in Russia.
A Chicago Tribune reporter posted a picture on social media of the warning near the sink of her hotel bathroom that read, “Do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.” Another reporter tweeted, “peach juice…oh wait, that’s water,” and many other reporters joined in on the spectacle.
However, what seemed entertaining for the press was and continues to be a harsh reality for Russians. Over 10 million people lack access to quality drinking water in Russia and 60 percent of the country’s population drinks water from contaminated wells.
Russian regulatory bodies report that between 35 percent and 60 percent of the country’s drinking water reserves do not meet sanitary standards. Forty percent of surface water and 17 percent of underground spring water are not safe enough to drink. Russian rivers and lakes contain pollution from agricultural and industrial waste in amounts that exceed all minimum standards.
The poor water quality in Russia is due to the “thousands of companies [that] have dumped dangerous chemicals into rivers and lakes, and these pollutants are inevitably absorbed into the human body through water and food,” according to Greenpeace. Waterborne illness as a result of such pollution behaviors contributes to the deaths of more than 3 million people every year — more deaths than those a war causes.
Greenpeace also reports that “companies are not adopting clean technologies, and the government is ineffectual when it comes to preventing criminals from poisoning the water.” However, many Russian companies have started to improve water quality, offering an increasing number of water purifying technologies.
Traditional water purification methods include ozonation, chlorination, UV treatment, ultrafiltration and electrolysis. The use of chlorine and ozone is dangerous because they are poisonous substances and the use of ultraviolet light is inefficient because it purifies water only near the source. Thus, the safest and most effective is electrolysis.
A team of former equipment suppliers to Russia’s largest energy company, Gazprom, and the Novosibirsk Institute of Mining have created and implemented a new water purification system called the Aquifer. The system uses electrolysis to kill bacteria and stirs the water intensively to give it more oxygen. Because the system has no moving parts, the Aquifer will improve the water quality in Russia while reducing energy consumption.
Experts predict that the demand for water supply will exceed the global supply by more than 50 percent by 2025 if there is no improvement in access to quality drinking water. Sustainable solutions like the Aquifer give hope to reversing the trend.
– Ashley Leon