World Water Week: prizewinning project has potential to revolutionize future of water quality

The prize winning project of this year’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize has developed a unique method to identify, quantify and control water contaminants with the potential to revolutionize the future of water quality worldwide.

Two students from the USA, Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, received the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize on Tuesday for their novel approach to detect and purify water contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera.

In its citation, the Jury said:

“This year’s winning project embodies the fundamental principle of providing safe drinking water. The winner’s motivation is to eliminate millions of human deaths each year. The project developed a unique, rapid, and sensitive method to identify, quantify and control water contaminants.”

The students constructed a system that detects and purifies water contaminated with Shigella, E. coli, Salmonella, and Cholera more rapidly and sensitively than conventional methods. Their system detects as little as one reproductive bacteria colony per litre instantaneously and eliminates bacterial presence in approximately ten seconds.

In contrast, conventional methods have detection limits of up to 1000 colonies and take one to two days. The students’ novel approach could prevent the contraction and outbreak of waterborne diseases and expand potable water throughout the world.

“This method is applicable to both developed and developing world. The winning project has used fundamental science in an elegant way to address pathogenic bacteria in drinking water. The project has the potential to revolutionize the future of water quality,” the Jury said.

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI commented:

“This is a very inspiring project that takes on one of the world’s biggest challenges, providing clean drinking water for all. Methods like these can unlock huge human potential, when access to safe drinking water, and by extension health, improves among hundreds of millions of people.”

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. Teams from 33 countries competed in the 2017 finals.

H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize at a ceremony yesterday during World Water Week in Stockholm.


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Ford is 1st carmaker to commit to Business Alliance for Water & Climate Initiative

As part of its continued water conservation efforts, Ford Motor Company has become the first automaker to commit to the Business Alliance for Water and Climate Initiative, a coalition dedicated to analysing risks and implementing solutions to water issues around the world.

The Alliance is a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), SUEZ and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Ford decided to join the initiative to enable it to help analyse water-related risks, implement collaborative response strategies and reduce impacts on water availability and quality in both direct operations and along the value chain.

The auto manufacturer’s water strategy is aligned with the six core elements of the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, which focuses on:

  • direct operations
  • supply chain and watershed management
  • collective action
  • public policy
  • community engagement
  • transparency

Ford Sus Report

Water use in Vehicle Life Cycle a key issue for Ford

Water use in the Vehicle Life Cycle is among a number of material issues identified in Ford’s latest annual Sustainability Report which focuses on the company’s progress in addressing sustainability across the business, from climate change to ethical business practices within the supply chain.

The report flags up global water challenges, including availability and access, as closely linked to climate change and human rights issues Ford is addressing in its facilities, supply chain and community engagement.

To better assess Ford’s water footprint, the firm estimated life cycle use for a model year 2012 Ford Focus – both the internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) and the battery electric vehicle (BEV).

The analysis includes water used in materials production, parts production, vehicle assembly, vehicle use (fuel production and distribution) and vehicle disposal at end of life.

Both direct and indirect water usages were accounted for throughout the life cycle based on a lifetime driving distance of 160,000 miles.

The report says that under a life cycle analysis that the use phase could be seen as the most water-intensive due to the water used to produce the gasoline or electricity that powers the vehicle, highlighting the importance of reducing the water consumption associated with fuel production, as well as increasing vehicle energy efficiency.

Identifying water-intensive sections of supply chain enables Ford to better assess water risks

Ford said that identifying which portions of the supply chain are most water intensive allows it to better assess the business risk associated with using suppliers in potentially water-stressed areas.

The company owns and operates 62 worldwide manufacturing plants, where it directly manages and control its impacts. However, it also relies on an extended supply chain for goods and services it buys from other companies, including freight providers and components manufacturers.

The carmaker has reduced its global water use per vehicle produced from 4.0 cubic meters in 2014 to 3.7 in 2016. It has also saved over 10 billion gallons of water production from 2000 to 2016 – 62 % less water per vehicle produced – through implementing its water strategy, introducing new technologies and developing its processes.

This includes a reduction in water use by 17.5 million litres at its state-of-the-art production line for the 2.0-litre Ford EcoBlue diesel engine at the Dagenham Diesel Centre in the UK which has reduced water and energy consumption per engine produced by more than 50%.

The automaker said it is continuing its program by rolling out real-time water metering to “aggressively manage” its water use and conducting water assessments to determine where new conservation measures can be applied.

Understanding  suppliers’ water use impact

To better understand the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water use of its supply base, Ford surveys a selection of suppliers every year, using the CDP Supply Chain program’s questionnaires. In 2016, the firm surveyed 242 production suppliers, as well as indirect suppliers of logistics and information technology services.

The selection of suppliers invited to participate is based on a combination of:

  • the GHG or water intensity of their activities or the commodities they supply
  • the geographic footprint of their operations, including those in water-stressed regions
  • the strategic nature of their relationship with Ford

In 2016, 196 suppliers were also invited to respond to the CDP Water questionnaire, and 140 (71 %) responded. Together, the two questionnaires provide qualitative and quantitative information about suppliers’ management of climate risks, GHG emissions and water use.

The carmaker attributes the high response rate of 84% (average for all participating companies: 70 %) to its ongoing support for suppliers through webinars, guidance documents and technical assistance. This includes one-day supplier training programs for calculating, allocating and reporting GHG emissions and a one-day program for water management and water use reductions, developed through the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG).

According to the report, the number of Ford suppliers integrating climate change into their business strategies and those reporting water-related targets is continuing to increase. In 2016:

  • 82 % integrated climate change into their business strategy (2015: 78 %)
  • 64 % reported a water-related target or goal (2015: 41 %)
  • 64 % reported having an emissions reduction target (2015: 66 %)

Building supplier capability through PACE

The data obtained through the surveys has helped Ford to identify“hotspots” for GHG emissions and water use. The suppliers have been targeted to participate in its Partnership for A Cleaner Environment (PACE) program.

Ford is building its supplier capability through PACE – the sustainability initiative has been designed to reduce the collective environmental footprint of Ford and the supply chain.

The goal is to share the leading practices implemented in Ford’s own manufacturing plants for reducing energy and water use, GHG and air emissions, and waste generation, thereby enabling suppliers to replicate best practice, minimize their environmental impacts and report their sustainability performance.

To extend the impact further along the supply chain, Ford also encourages its Tier 1 suppliers to cascade the information down to their own suppliers. PACE now includes more than 40 strategic suppliers with the potential to impact nearly 1,100 supplier sites in more than 40 countries – up from just 25 suppliers in 2015.

Via PACE Ford said it has now successfully implemented more than 350 practices at sites shared with key strategic suppliers and hopes they will help to save 550 million gallons of water and cut carbon emissions by 500,000 metric tons over the next five years.

Ford targets further 30% water use reduction per vehicle between 2015-2020

Looking ahead, Ford said it had updated its long-term water strategy in 2016, using results from water futuring work, which considered a number of “what if” scenarios, and CERES AquaGauge results. Aqua Gauge is a comprehensive assessment tool for evaluating corporate management of water risk.

Ford achieved its previous goal two years ahead of schedule – the revised water strategy sets out a new, aggressive target of saving an additional 30% of water per vehicle produced between 2015 and 2020 – this represents a total 72% reduction in water use per vehicle over the period.

“It’s a first step toward achieving our aspiration to manufacture vehicles without withdrawing any potable water for our processes”, the report says. Ford has a goal of zero usage of drinkable water in manufacturing.

CDP: “business case for action to improve water security never been stronger or more urgent”

Ford is the only North American company in the “consumer discretionary” category to earn the CDP’s highest honour for corporate water stewardship.

Morgan Gillespy, Head of Water at CDP commented:

“The business case for action to improve water security has never been stronger or more urgent. We congratulate Ford Motor Company for achieving a position on CDP’s Water A List. The company is responding to market demand for environmental accountability and at the same time making progress toward achieving a water-secure world.”

For the eighth year in a row, the car manufacturer has also won a place on the Ethisphere Institute’s “World’s Most Ethical Company” list – the only automaker to achieve this recognition.

Click here to download Ford Motor Company Sustainability Report 2016/17in full

‘Self-driving’ lorries to be tested on UK roads

Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.

A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.

Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.

But the head of the AA said platoons raised safety concerns.

The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.

The lead vehicle in the platoons will be controlled by a human driver and humans will also control the steering in lorries to the rear – though acceleration and braking will be mirrored.

Lorries driving close together could see the front vehicle pushing air out of the way, making the other vehicles more efficient and lowering their emissions.

This could lead to fuel savings for companies that will hopefully be passed on to consumers, Transport Minister Paul Maynard said.

he government has been promising such a project since at least 2014.

Last year, for example, it announced its intention to carry out platooning trials but was later frustrated after some European lorrymakers declined to participate.

A Department of Transport spokesman told the BBC that the experiments are now expected to go ahead as the contract had been awarded.

The TRL has announced its partners for the project:

  • DAF Trucks, a Dutch lorry manufacturer
  • Ricardo, a British smart tech transport firm
  • DHL, a German logistics company

Platooning has been tested in a number of countries around the world, including the US, Germany and Japan.

However, British roads present a unique challenge, said Edmund King, president of the AA.

“We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduce congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it,” he said, pointing out, for example, that small convoys of lorries can block road signs from the view of other road users.

“We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries.

“Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America,” he added.

His comments were echoed by the RAC Foundation.

Its director, Steve Gooding, said: “Streams of close-running HGVs could provide financial savings on long-distance journeys, but on our heavily congested motorways – with stop-start traffic and vehicles jostling for position – the benefits are less certain.”

Campaign group the Road Haulage Association said “safety has to come first”.

Transport Minister Paul Maynard said platooning could lead to cheaper fuel bills, lower emissions and less congestion.

“But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials,” he said.

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Highways England M5 apology branded ‘discourteous’ by Worcestershire’s transport chief

An apology to long-suffering county motorists on the M5 has been labelled ‘discourteous’ in an outspoken attack from the county’s highways chief.

Coun Alan Amos, cabinet member for Highways at Worcestershire County Council launched the fierce broadside after Zbigniew Twarowski apologised to motorists for measures put in place to reduce traffic on the motorway during the Oldbury viaduct works.

Motorists are yet again facing longer journeys after Highways England ‘imposed’ lane closures between Worcester and the M42 junction to slow traffic approaching roadworks at the Oldbury Viaduct between junctions 2 and 1.

The latest disruption on the M5 follows years of misery for commuters after the disruption caused by the Smart Motorway upgrade works.

Despite Mr Twarowski’s apology as the Senior Project Manager for Highways England, Coun Amos said there was ‘nothing new in the letter’.

“I would have expected the Chief Executive of Highways England to have replied to a letter to him from the Leader of the County Council, not some bureaucrat.

“Clearly, this again proves that Highways England is a government quango not accountable to anybody.

“The letter does not explain why motorists more than three junctions away should be deliberately targeted for disruption and delays on project many miles away.

“Why not tell drivers and let them make their own choice?”

The controversial Worcester councillor also claimed it Highways England were engaged in ‘one way chats’ with County Hall highways officers and were ‘neither listening to nor acting on anything they said.’

In his letter to Observer readers, Mr Twarowski said the work at Oldbury was the largest concrete repair project, by value, ever carried out in Britain.

“The scale of the repair work is immense and, unfortunately, disruption is unavoidable. I recognise this is unwelcome, both for motorists and local communities.

“I also recognise that delivery of the M5 junctions 4a to 6 smart motorway upgrade has already inconvenienced local communities in Worcestershire.

Mr Twarowski admitted the schemes would not have been planned so close together but highways chiefs were left with no choice because of the deterioration of the viaduct at Oldbury.

“The lane restrictions introduced at junction 4a are part of a package of carefully planned measures to balance the flow of traffic across Worcestershire and the West Midlands as a whole,” he said.

“I fully appreciate road users’ frustrations around this. Junction 4a is some distance from the work at Oldbury but it is the last point at which road users can decide to use an alternative route on the motorway network, rather than less suitable local roads, which would cause widespread congestion.”

Highways England would continue to assess the plans and make changes where needed according to Mr Twarowski.

“My team is also in discussions with Worcestershire County Council and is already working with them to improve our signage on local and strategic routes.,” he said.

“Motorists can then make more informed choices about which route they take and how long their journey is likely to be.”

New research shows cyborg bacteria could generate fuel from water, sunlight & CO2 font size decrease font size

To enable humans to capture more of the sun’s energy than natural photosynthesis can, scientists have taught bacteria to cover themselves in tiny, highly efficient solar panels to produce useful compounds.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley focuses on harnessing inorganic semiconductors that can capture sunlight to organisms such as bacteria that can then use the energy to produce useful chemicals from carbon dioxide and water.

While photosynthesis provides energy for the vast majority of life on Earth, chlorophyll, the green pigment that plants use to harvest sunlight, is relatively inefficient.

Image courtesy of Kelsey K. Sakimoto

“Rather than rely on inefficient chlorophyll to harvest sunlight, I’ve taught bacteria how to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals,” says Kelsey K. Sakimoto, Ph.D., who carried out the research in the lab of Peidong Yang, Ph.D. “These nanocrystals are much more efficient than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of manufactured solar panels.”

Many scientists have worked to create artificial photosynthetic systems to generate renewable energy and simple organic chemicals using sunlight. While progress has been made, to date the systems are not efficient enough for commercial production of fuels and feedstocks.

Though few CO2 reduction approaches can rival the energy efficiency and selectivity of biological CO2 fixation, the limited light absorption of natural photosynthesis pales in comparison to that of inorganic semiconductor based photovoltaics.

“The thrust of research in my lab is to essentially ‘supercharge’ nonphotosynthetic bacteria by providing them energy in the form of electrons from inorganic semiconductors, like cadmium sulfide, that are efficient light absorbers,” Yang says. “We are now looking for more benign light absorbers than cadmium sulfide to provide bacteria with energy from light.”

When Sakimoto fed cadmium and the amino acid cysteine, which contains a sulfur atom, to the bacteria, they synthesized cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles, which function as solar panels on their surfaces.

The hybrid organism, M. thermoacetica-CdS, produces acetic acid from CO2, water and light. “Once covered with these tiny solar panels, the bacteria can synthesize food, fuels and plastics, all using solar energy,” Sakimoto says. “These bacteria outperform natural photosynthesis.”

The bacteria operate at an efficiency of more than 80 percent, and the process is self-replicating and self-regenerating, making it a zero-waste technology.

“Synthetic biology and the ability to expand the product scope of CO2 reduction will be crucial to poising this technology as a replacement, or one of many replacements, for the petrochemical industry,” Sakimoto says.

Commenting on whether the inorganic-biological hybrids have commercial potential, Sakimoto said:

“Many current systems in artificial photosynthesis require solid electrodes, which is a huge cost. Our algal biofuels are much more attractive, as the whole CO2-to-chemical apparatus is self-contained and only requires a big vat out in the sun.”

However, he points out that the system still requires some tweaking to tune both the semiconductor and the bacteria. He also suggests that it is possible that the hybrid bacteria he created may have some naturally occurring analog. “A future direction, if this phenomenon exists in nature, would be to bioprospect for these organisms and put them to use,” he says.

According to the researchers, the advances and variations of the inorganic-biological hybrid organism concept are driving the work towards out-competing traditional approaches to chemical production and augment the ever expanding portfolio of next generation green technologies.

Click here to watch a video about the research

Yorkshire Water to start work on £20m Langsett WTW upgrade

Built in 1985, the plant supplies a population of around 200,000 people in the Sheffield and Barnsley areas. In common with most other reservoirs in the Pennines, raw water quality has deteriorated over time due to the peaty nature of the hills the water runs down before being collected in the reservoir.

To counteract this, the three-year scheme will involve installing a new first stage treatment process designed to remove the slightly tinged peat colour from the raw water in Langsett reservoir, prior to it being treated and sent out to supply customers.

Simon Balding, Yorkshire Water project manager, said:

“Removing the deposits and colour makes it much easier to treat the water and will ensure customers in Sheffield and Barnsley continue to receive high quality drinking water. This is a big investment and demonstrates our commitment to providing the best quality drinking water for the area.”

Planning permission for the scheme was received in May and it is expected that work will begin in September, led by contract partner, Morgan Sindall Sweco.

The scheme is part of a major investment across South Yorkshire this year which will include another significant drinking water project at Rivelin (£24million) and a £20 million scheme at Lundwood sewage treatment works to improve the water quality in the River Dearne.

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Highways England to lift roadworks over bank holiday weekend