Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kevin Fischer Does Not Understand Where Drinking Water Already Comes From

Kevin Fischer, inveterate righty blogger and staff aide to State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin) is atwitter about what he calls "preposterous," and "horrible," and "icky" (now there's maturity, for ya) plans to use state-of-the-art water purification techniques to create potable water from waste water in parts of the county facing water shortages.

Isn't it an act of faith among conservatives that technology will bail us out of severe ecological difficulties, so why would people like Fischer get all upset and squeamish when advantageous technology gratefully comes along?

And Kevin: Though the technology is improving, the concept is hardly new.

What do you think certain communities along rivers downstream from cities like Waukesha, for example, have been doing for decades and decades - - with Waukesha being the city right next door to Mary Lazich's home base in New Berlin, and which is the dominant city in Waukesha County, where Lazich is a key policy-maker?

One of the region's pre-eminent water experts, UW-M hydrologist and professor Douglas Cherkauer, has been educating folks around here about this for years, and suggesting it to Waukesha as an alternative to piping in Lake Michigan water a good 20 miles away.

As Cherkauer has been saying, Waukesha could efficiently treat some its its effluent, then deposit it in the watershed above the city where it could then seep back into the Fox River, be removed by Waukesha, and used again.

Here is how Cherkauer described the process to the Freeman more than four years ago:

"I’m saying, take half of that [Waukesha discharge] flow and pipe it back somewhere up the river, north of Waukesha - removed from the Fox River but within the watershed. Then build big infiltration fields for it - with big, perforated pipes put underground - and let (the wastewater) soak in, after it’s been treated. Then the soaking infiltration process provides still more treatment.

"Then that (wastewater) would flow back to the Fox River and it literally increases that Fox River flow by that same 4.5 million gallons a day," he said.

"Cherkauer added, "If the stuff is treated correctly, then the river is still viable, it’s still a recreational site, and you’re just inducing it to flow from the river into shallow wells that are placed along the river. Those wells could be hooked up to the same water mains that the current deep wells are hooked up to.

"The difference between a groundwater source and a river source is that you absolutely have to treat a water source when it comes out of the river, unlike well water," he said.

"Cherkauer said the concept is not so outside the mainstream as it might sound. The Illinois communities of Elgin and Aurora are already drinking that water - the wastewater that Waukesha sends south down the Fox River past their communities." [Emphasis added]

In other words - - right now, Waukesha discharges its waste water, a valuable resource, into the Fox River below the city, where downstream communities in Northern Illinois pull that water out, treat it again to acceptable drinking standards, and - - here's the news - - Kevin:

Drink it.

If you visited Elgin, and had a glass of tapwater, you'd be drinking treated Waukesha waste water.

Then Elgin, or Aurora, treats their waste water, discharges it downstream, and the process can goes on again and again as the Fox River empties into the Mississippi River watershed, to the Gulf of Mexico.

It's nothing new, except that the technologies are getting better because water needs are growing and the market is responding with new science, and sheer ingenuity.

Not everyone's water originates in a well, Kevin.


Dave1 said...

Excellent Point!

I lived in New Orleans for 5 years. The city water comes right out of the Mississipi River. It's some of the best tap water anywhere (although not quite as good as Lake Superior).

I'm guessing that the waste water from about half the country winds up in the Big Muddy.

Jim Bouman said...

Decades ago, backpacking in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, we were high enough to be able to drink fresh flowing water that was clearly snow-melt off the top of a "fourteener" (one of 78 Colorado peaks taller than 14 thousand ft. I remarked to my friend, an inveterate mountain man, that it was probably the most pristine water I'd ever drink.

He agreed about the purity of it, but added that it had no doubt been through the cycle many times--an endless cycle of snowmelt... springwater...creek water... rushing river and reservoir water; only to evaporate and be deposited as snow on the top of another mountain.

"Truth is," he said with a wicked grin, "the water you're drinking has been through six buffalo, three Indians, an old coot prospecting for a silver mine, and ME when I took a leak in the bushes near here back in 1970".

And that's the miracle of purification-through-filtration.

Warning: don't rely on filtration any longer when backpacking. Irresponsible grazing of cattle too high in the mountain pastures has made all snowmelt suspect. Giardiasis is a nasty parasitic condition that can be a painful and difficult-to-cure malady brought to humans by the greed and irresponsibility of the cattle industry.