Latin America's 20% wastewater treatment rate threatens sustainability

Monday, October 14, 2013

Only about 20% of wastewater in Latin America is treated and this is just one of many deficiencies threatening the region’s water sustainability, waterworks specialist Michael Sullivan told BNamericas

“Besides untreated residential sewage, contaminated industrial wastewater and tainted agricultural drainage flows are polluting rivers and coastal areas and reducing the availability of quality drinking water,” said Sullivan who is the director of global business development for the "Smarter Water" initiative of IBM (NYSE: IBM).

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Not only are ecosystems threatened but billions of dollars are lost on potential tourism and real estate revenues as well as increased hospital care.

Approximately half the hospitals beds in the world are filled with patients who fell sick to water borne illness. Think about how this impacts healthcare costs around the world and how important ensuring safe water is.

To fight combined sewer overflow (CSO), several solutions can be implemented, according to Sullivan.

The most conventional option is dividing up sewer systems and creating additional storage capacity to manage peak flows. However, this is extremely expensive and very disruptive to the local population.

The other, less invasive option involves monitoring and controlling solutions which maximize storage capacity during a storm by coordinating storage emptying actions aimed at preventing overflows, said Sullivan.

For the less invasive option, IBM has set up sewer systems with wireless sensors that obtain water level and flow measurement information in cooperation with weather forecasts.

The system proactively monitors and alerts the local water authority when water is rising to dangerous levels, or when potential blockages are occurring so that preventive measures can be taken.