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Water 4.0

Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World's Most Vital Resource

David Sedlak
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Water 4.0
    Book Description:

    Turn on the faucet, and water pours out. Pull out the drain plug, and the dirty water disappears. Most of us give little thought to the hidden systems that bring us water and take it away when we're done with it. But these underappreciated marvels of engineering face an array of challenges that cannot be solved without a fundamental change to our relationship with water, David Sedlak explains in this enlightening book. To make informed decisions about the future, we need to understand the three revolutions in urban water systems that have occurred over the past 2,500 years and the technologies that will remake the system.

    The author starts by describing Water 1.0, the early Roman aqueducts, fountains, and sewers that made dense urban living feasible. He then details the development of drinking water and sewage treatment systems-the second and third revolutions in urban water. He offers an insider's look at current systems that rely on reservoirs, underground pipe networks, treatment plants, and storm sewers to provide water that is safe to drink, before addressing how these water systems will have to be reinvented. For everyone who cares about reliable, clean, abundant water, this book is essential reading.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19935-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Architecture and Architectural History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 Water Supply in Rome, the World’s First Metropolis
    (pp. 1-13)

    If water is the essential ingredient of life, then water supply is the essential ingredient of civilization. In ancient times, when people first began gathering in settlements for trade and mutual protection, they tended to locate within a short distance of their drinking water. But as settlements grew into villages and villages gave way to cities, people were forced to live farther away from their water source. Initially, the challenge of supplying areas of the city that were far from water was solved by digging a well or by paying for home delivery of water.¹ For the inhabitants of the...

  6. 2 The Bucket Era
    (pp. 14-25)

    The Western world was very different after the fall of the Roman Empire. Without Rome’s engineers, planners, and armies, cities faded into the background. Between 500 and 1400 CE, few places in Europe had populations that were greater than a fifth of the size of Rome at its peak. To our modern eyes, most medieval cities would seem like rural towns surrounded by a protective wall.¹ Houses were clustered in tight rows to protect city dwellers from the winter cold. The attached houses created the familiar narrow streets and town squares of old Europe, but hidden behind their facades were...

  7. 3 Europe’s Sewage Crisis
    (pp. 26-40)

    As Western civilization made the transition from medieval times to the modern era, the systems that had been developed to provide water and remove wastes struggled to keep up with increasing population densities. A new approach was needed if cities were going to continue their rapid growth. In response to the problems caused by inadequate and polluted water supplies, each city relied on its own ideas about public health, aesthetics, and the role of the state in civil affairs in order to develop urban water systems that were best suited for their particular climates and geographic features. The differences in...

  8. 4 Growing Old Thanks to Water Treatment
    (pp. 41-62)

    During the nineteenth century, the United States matured from a sleepy, isolated country to a leading industrialized nation. New York grew from a city of fewer than 70,000 to a metropolis of over 3 million people. Chicago went from being a tiny military outpost to a city of 1.7 million people. And just as their European counterparts had decades earlier, cities throughout the United States suffered from cholera outbreaks, filthy streets, and inadequate water supplies during the first half of the nineteenth century.¹ In response, American cities made major investments in Water 1.0. During the last decades of the century,...

  9. 5 Burning Rivers, Fading Paint, and the Clean Water Movement
    (pp. 63-89)

    In the 1860s, Edwin Chadwick, Victor Hugo, Karl Marx, and their fellow reformers campaigned vigorously for centralized systems to help farmers capture the nutrients in the sewage pouring out of rapidly growing cities. But by the end of the century the widespread availability of inexpensive synthetic fertilizers had taken away the economic incentives for sewage farming.¹ Without a market for the nutrients, it was hard to justify doing anything other than discharging sewage directly to surface waters. In locations where sewage posed obvious threats to drinking water, cities tapped new sources in distant watersheds, or they built drinking water treatment...

  10. 6 The Chlorine Dilemma
    (pp. 90-111)

    After the publication ofSilent Springand the muchpublicized fire on the Cuyahoga River, all eyes turned to Washington, D.C., where concerned politicians pushed forward pollution-control legislation. Increased public attention and the lobbying efforts of environmental groups led to the allocation of federal funds to upgrade sewage treatment plants and to standards being set to control smog-producing gases emitted by factories and cars. But the energy and influence of the environmental movement did not stop there. The late 1960s was a time when idealistic people put their energy into making the world a better place—and among these idealists was...

  11. 7 “Drains to Bay”
    (pp. 112-138)

    On the curb across the street from my office there is a sign with a picture of a little blue fish ringed by the words, “No Dumping—Drains to Bay.” Underneath the sign sits the storm sewer—an entry point for rainwater traveling through the underground pipe system designed to protect the city of Berkeley, California, from flooding. Any water flowing into the storm sewer makes a speedy trip under the city to a pipe that ends at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Along with the rainwater, anything else that has found its way into the street, like trash,...

  12. 8 Traces of Trouble: Hormones, Pharmaceuticals, and Toxic Chemicals
    (pp. 139-163)

    In 1995, I was invited to give a talk at a scientific conference featuring the up-and-coming water pollution researchers. Of course I agreed to go. After all, I was flattered by the attention, and as a freshly minted assistant professor I knew that being identified as someone who stood out from his peers would be useful when it came time for tenure review. That the conference was to be held in Honolulu in mid-December had only a minor bearing on my decision to accept the invitation.

    Like most of the other speakers, I planned to slink off to the beach...

  13. 9 Paying for the Fourth Revolution
    (pp. 164-186)

    My water bill is just one of many that land in my physical and virtual mailbox every month. In addition to telling me what I owe, it helpfully points out the amount of water my family used and the breakdown of fees for different tasks that my local water company does to keep the water flowing to and the sewage flowing away from my home. Fifty dollars a month puts it in the same price range as the monthly bills for cell phones, electricity, and Internet service. In fact, if I calculate the cost by volume used, my family spends...

  14. 10 The Toilet-to-Tap Solution
    (pp. 187-216)

    Not too long ago, we lived in a wasteful world. We tossed our aluminum cans, glass bottles, and old newspapers into the trash without a second thought. We drove gas guzzlers, turned the thermostat way up in the winter, and lit our homes with hundred-watt incandescent light bulbs. Once we were done using something, it was destined for the landfill or incinerator. Energy was what we had after a second cup of coffee and definitely not something we thought about conserving. But as the world became more crowded and we started to recognize the problems associated with our consumptive ways,...

  15. 11 Turning to the Sea for Drinking Water
    (pp. 217-237)

    Throughout history, cities have employed a similar set of approaches for obtaining drinking water. Those urban dwellers lucky enough to live near a river or lake have usually focused on making their local surface water safe to drink. If there is an adequate groundwater supply underneath the city, people who lack easy access to surface water have obtained their drinking water from wells. And after a city’s population has grown to a point where the local water resources no longer suffice, canals and aqueducts have been built to import water from increasingly distant regions.

    By the end of the twentieth...

  16. 12 A Different Tomorrow
    (pp. 238-272)

    Ever since the Romans pioneered Water 1.0, centralization has been the big idea behind urban water systems. In fact, this original design principle has been so potent that each of the subsequent upgrades was built on this foundation. Starting with the addition of filtration and chlorine disinfection on the front end of water distribution systems (Water 2.0), and continuing to the installation of biological wastewater treatment on the sewer end (Water 3.0) and beyond, modern water infrastructure is still guided by its original blueprint of ancient Roman-style aqueducts and cloacae.

    Centralized urban water systems are presently under considerable stress from...

  17. 13 Reflections
    (pp. 273-282)

    Modern urban water systems are unobtrusive by design. The pipes that bring water to our homes, drain our streets, and transport our wastes are hidden underground. Treatment plants are tucked away on the water’s edge or are located on a side street in an obscure part of the city that almost nobody visits. Even the huge reservoirs that hold our drinking water are usually locked behind fences in protected watersheds. By handing the management of water over to the professionals, we have reduced our daily encounters with the water cycle to the turning of a faucet and the flushing of...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 283-318)
  19. Index
    (pp. 319-332)