Hold on to your freaking hat: This is easily the most astonishing data viz project we’ve seen all month.
We take it for granted that water comes from the tap, but we don’t appreciate that it often has to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles from its source to get where it’s ultimately consumed. David Wicks, a masters student at UCLA, set about to fill that void, with Drawing Water, a project that’s equal parts data viz and art project.
Click through to see the rad video “Drawing Water.”
Would you believe that highly purified water is like acid to your body? Of all the crazy things I have heard about water, this tops my list as the most insane:
FACT: Water can be too clean to drink—so clean that it’s actually not safe to drink.
That’s the kind of claim about water that people scoff at—it seems ridiculous on the face of it.
Water too clean to drink?
Give me a break. It’s water. Cleaner is better.
But this is one wild water story that’s true.
Every day, around the world, tens of millions of gallons of the cleanest water possible are created, water so clean that it is regarded as an industrial solvent, absolutely central to high-tech manufacturing but not safe for human consumption.
The clean water—it’s called ultra-pure water (UPW)—is a central part of making semiconductors, the wafers from which computer microchips are cut for everything from MRI scanners to greeting cards.
Almost 900 million people in the world live without access to safe drinking water—the kind of water that is safe enough to flow straight from the tap into your mouth (with maybe a Brita filter in between). For these people, walking hours each day to faraway and potentially contaminated streams and wells is a way of life, and not one that is particularly conducive to getting much done. That’s the developing world water story you’ve heard 1,000 times before. But now we may not need wells to solve that problem. Because there is, in fact, clean water in the air all around you—if you know how to catch it.
Researchers at MIT are working on a fog-harvesting device (click through for picture) inspired by the Namib Beetle, an African species that gathers water droplets from the morning fog on its back and lets the moisture roll into its mouth. The geeks at MIT (sadly) aren’t proposing that humans run around wearing beetle-like shells on their backs. Instead, a human-scale fog-harvesting device is made up of a mesh panel that collects water particles into a receptacle. Continued…
Fact: We hear all the time that “only” 2% of the water on Earth is fresh and available for human use—only 1% if you exclude glaciers and polar ice caps. It’s true, it’s just not very meaningful, and it’s misleading.
About 97% of the water on the surface of the Earth is in the oceans. But the oceans aren’t a static pool of unusable water—they are a vast desalination system, making water for human use every second of every day.
The ocean and the atmosphere, with the help of the sun, are moving around volumes of water that are truly stupendous—measured in a standard unit rarely heard outside the world of geology and atmospheric science: the cubic kilometer.
That “only 1%” figure is designed to galvanize us. But if it ever struck people as dramatic, it’s lost it’s power. As well it should.
Charles Fishman continues to unpack staggering water facts in his Fast Company series, The Big Thirst based on his upcoming book of the same name.
Not one of the 35 largest cities in India has water service more than an hour or two a day—including the name-brand cities we’ve all heard of: Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi. Many visitors to India never realize this, because hotels, offices, and upper-class homes have pumps and tanks that provide fake 24-hour service—the moment water pressure comes on, the pumps pull as much water into the tanks as possible. The result is a kind of illusory water service for a small slice of the population, and an undermining of efforts to improve overall municipal water service.
Almost half of Indians don’t have access to clean, safe reliable water—540 million people in just a single country. And one in six Indians relies on water that has to be carried home by foot—a time-consuming chore almost always handled by women and girls.
When you tote that 24-pack of half-liter water bottles home from the supermarket next time, try balancing it on your head, like many Indians do. That’s 26 pounds of water—just three gallons. Enough for one U.S. toilet flush.