4A: Down the Drain - Rian Hoyle, Edmonton AB

Environment   Nov 2, 2018 by Rian Hoyle

*On Saturday October 20th I recorded every time i used the tap and for how long, afterwards I looked up the average water use for each action which is how i determined a rough estimate of how much total water I used*

I was shocked how quickly the volume of water added up, I thought I didn’t even use the tap that much but then I calculated the actual amount of water and felt incredibly guilty. Despite when comparing my results to the average person I don’t use nearly as much I still felt awful and now have a need to reduce my water usage. Obviously some of my water use isn’t a daily chore like the laundry or a bath but even without those once or twice a week uses of water it still is a lot of water I use daily. This also doesn’t take into account water I consume since that isn’t going down the drain so there is in fact extra water usage that I still don’t know about. I used about 154.75 liters (40 gallons) in one day which is about half as much as the average person in Canada at 329 liters daily which I had no clue was that high until researching.

Majority of the times I used the tap soap went down with the water but there was also at times food scraps from dishes; toilet paper; chamomile tea from cleaning my nose piercing; and fibers from clothes. There isn’t anything that stands out when it comes to my usage besides the synthetic fibers which are microplastics, I didn’t actually know about the plastics used in clothes until I did the “Where is our Waste” project which is so mind blowing that everytime I do laundry plastic is being sent to the waterways and knowing from “Streams and Rivers” the water in Edmonton ends up in the Hudson's Bay. It’s cool how all these projects link back to each other and that the knowledge from each transfers over.


When it comes to cleaning our water Edmonton has intake pipes placed at deep parts of the North Saskatchewan River to avoid drawing in oil and other debris floating on the surface into the pipes since it’s extra pollutants to then clean out. Sometimes this raw water is temporarily held in settling ponds to let some of the solids drop out, or else it is pumped directly to the treatment plant. A coagulant such as alum is added at this stage and the water is mixed, creating clumps of particles in a process called flocculation (floc). These clumps then settle to the bottom of the basin and removed then the water is filtered. Edmonton uses sand to filter the water which is more natural than synthetic filters, the end goal is to achieve a low turbidity (cloudiness) of no more than 0.3 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units). NTU measures the safety of the water for drinking which 0.3 is the highest number for safe drinking water but Edmonton often gets a number better. Water is also disinfected as a final cleaning step and it’s normally chlorine of sorts used much like in swimming pools,  Edmonton also uses an ultraviolet disinfection system that is particularly effective at deactivating Cryptosporidium.


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