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Building a water wall

The Caribbean and the US Virgin Islands have a predominant water problem that is mostly triggered by floods and hurricanes. Sitting close to seas and oceans has its perks, but due to the atmospheric weather condition, it also poses major threats to lives and properties across the islands. Because of the proximity to water bodies, one would think the Caribbean islands wouldn’t have water problems, but this isn’t the case. The problem is not the availability, but the quality as a sizeable percentage of water on this island’s cisterns are polluted.

This pollution is due to certain factors like inadequate Gross Pollutant Trap cleaning, which empties organic waste and residue into water bodies. Plastic pollution is also another problem that has infested the Caribbean islands. Thus, regardless of the reason, one cannot possibly drink water from lakes, taps, springs, or even the sea without undergoing water treatments. Because of the frequency of floods or hurricanes in this part of the world, access to clean water for domestic or industrial purposes is usually truncated, and enough of the time, it’s restored at a later interval. Most residents cannot bear to wait for their access to clean water to be restored as it can take months on end. This is why some Caribbean residents have erected cisterns in their homes and businesses to ensure clean water is always accessible to them.

What exactly are cisterns?

Cisterns are waterproof receptacles used for holding liquids on a large scale. They are mostly designed to harvest and store rainwater by collecting the natural-falling precipitation on rooftops or sidewalks into a tank. Thus, turning water would normally wash off into a vital resource for domestic and industrial purposes. In the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands, rainwater is free and plentiful, and these islands can get up to 15 inches of rainfall per month from May to November. This makes having cisterns a very cost-friendly way of ensuring year-round water supply. Now, this might seem like a lasting solution to the Caribbean water problem for residents, and if managed properly, the Caribbean water problems would be nonexistent. However, with the use of cisterns comes the possibility of enclosed water pollution.

Cistern Water Pollution

Let’s face it; Cisterns collect water from rooftops and sidewalks into a tank, the size of which can range from 200-600,000 gallons. This collected water comes with a lot of impurities, and this is why, ideally, cisterns are meant to come equipped with a built-in filter that purifies the rainwater for diverse purposes. Over time, the cistern filter begins to trap and collect different kinds of molds and protozoa while breeding viruses, parasites, and bacteria. These pollutants can seep into the purified water and render it unfit for human consumption as it can cause diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, etc. to name a few.

In light of this potent pollution problem, the go-to would be purifying the water with chlorine or any other disinfectant before consumption. However, according to the CDC, ‘the addition of chlorine to untreated water will lead to the formation of DBPs.’ DBPs or Disinfection By-Products are formed when disinfectants like chlorine mix with the organic matter in the untreated water. The Cisterns trap water from rooftops and walkways so you can expect a lot of organic matter in the water. If you think DBPs do not pose a threat to health, the CDC also revealed that long-time exposure to Disinfection By-Products, DBPs, increases the cancer risk in humans. It’s also the leading cause of diarrheal diseases transmitted by contaminated water. Hence, the cost of consuming water with traces of DBP can be fatal and terminal.

The way forward for the Caribbean people

With all these downsides to domestic water management, it may seem like clean water is somewhat a luxurious commodity in the Caribbean, but this isn’t the case. While direct consumption from water bodies is ruled out alongside cisterns due to it being a breeding place for disease-causing organisms, what else can the Caribbean people do to get clean water with no carcinogenic properties? There’s a lasting solution just around the corner.

Membrane filtration

It’s as easy as it sounds. Membrane filtration is a separation technique that uses a semi-permeable membrane to separate particles in liquid solutions or those in gas mixtures—the semi-permeable membrane functions as a barrier that divides larger particles from smaller molecules. In water filtration, membrane pollution removes even the smallest micropollutants as they offer significant challenges and are unaffected by traditional and domestic water treatment techniques. Thus, they are leaving the dirtiest and most polluted of waters not just free of organic matter but equally clean, purified, and safe for human consumption. Depending on the size of the particles, membrane filtration has four types of processes. This ranges from Microfiltration to Ultrafiltration, Nanofiltration, and of course, reverse osmosis. Each process is peculiar to its vessel and molecule size.

Because of its effectiveness in water purification, membrane filtration can be used in Cisterns. It’s a more effective alternative to chlorine or any other disinfectant, and it’s void of carcinogenic deposits. Thus, membrane filtration, can physically and molecularly halt harmful elements found in rainwater from being consumed on a domestic or industrial scale. In essence, it’s a lasting solution for water-related troubles in the Caribbean. So how then can you gain access to membrane filters in the Caribbean? Well, Bondurant technologies offer a whole lot of water filtration apparatus, and the membrane filter is one such.

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