The United Nations declared 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” leading onto World Plumbing Day, setting a world agenda that focuses increased attention on water-related issues.
This initiative is of extraordinary importance in a world where preventable diseases related to water and sanitation claim the lives of about 3.1 million people per year, most of them children less than 5 years old. Of these, about 1.6 million people die each year of diarrheal diseases associated with lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
By including access to a safe drinking water supply and sanitation in these international goals, the world community proposes 97 million additional people annually will have access to drinking-water services and 138 million additional people access to sanitation services through 2015. Working within the spirit of these initiatives the World Health Organization and the World Plumbing Council developed the “Health Aspects of Plumbing” publication noting that sustainable health, especially for children, is not possible without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities.
CLEAN WATER IS NOT A LUXURY
“Health Aspects of Plumbing” is a comprehensive and substantive examination of the design, installation and maintenance of effective plumbing systems. It recommends a number of plumbing system design and installation specifications that have demonstrated their validity over years of existence and discusses the microbiological, chemical, physical and financial risks associated with plumbing.
Published by the World Health Organization and the World Plumbing Council, the book is dedicated to the achievement of the best possible plumbing practices to ensure the highest health benefits from the use of sound plumbing practices. It is a tremendous resource for administrators and plumbers, especially those in countries or areas in the early stages of introducing effective plumbing systems.
The SARS epidemic in Hong Kong demonstrated that the Amoy Gardens plumbing and ventilation systems were compromised over time, with inferior components (P-Trap and mounting bolts) allowing the infectious agent to spread throughout the building. Although it is not certain that this SARS outbreak could have been prevented, it is reasonable to conclude it might have been if a series of plumbing safeguards were met during a long progression of steps leading up to the catastrophic failure.
ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS OF PLUMBING
Among the objectives upon which the World Plumbing Council was founded is promoting awareness of the plumbing industry’s role in protecting the environment by providing safe fresh water and sanitation through proper management, care, reuse and conservation of natural resources. The industry also plays a major role in the installation of technologies that address concerns about the depletion of fossil fuels and work toward reducing harmful emissions.
Fresh water is in finite supply on Earth and as the key to life is without question our planet’s most precious natural resource. The plumbing industry recognizes the tenuous balance mankind must maintain to guarantee its very existence and embraces efforts to ensure we are preserving every drop possible. In many countries, the plumbing industry also contributes significantly to the development and installation of heating systems and recognizes that man’s still increasing reliance upon of fossil fuels cannot continue without challenge.
These efforts range from simple household changes to wide scale government sponsored endeavors. Highlights include:
The plumbing industry finds itself at the middle of three methods of water reuse that are rapidly increasing in popularity all over the world: rainwater harvesting, grey water systems and sewage water recycling.
Rainwater harvesting is pretty simple at its core — the capture and storage of rainwater that would otherwise return to the water table through natural means — but the plumbing industry is hard at work developing equipment and methods to increase its efficiency and usage.
Grey water systems can range from something as simple as redirecting sink drain water to a toilet tank for flushing to city wide systems used to water greenbelts and water tolerant landscaping.
Sewage water recycling is the filtration, treatment and natural return to the water table of water used to remove sewage from our homes and businesses. Municipalities are investing heavily in these systems that literally and figuratively remove the waste from our water.
LIMITING WATER USE
A host of water efficient products, from low-flow showerheads to waterless urinals are flooding the consumer market as plumbing manufacturers have embraced the conservation movement as a result of government rebate programs and mandatory efficiency standards.
Code development organizations have developed new “Green” standards for plumbing systems and various industry associations have introduced new training and education programs to increase conservation efforts among contractors and installers.
Researchers continue to discover and develop newer, even more efficient means for converting salt water to drinkable fresh water, a process that has previously been cost prohibitive and detrimental to the environment. Methods such as sub-sand intake, reverse osmosis filtration and renewable energy generation to power the pumps have all contributed to the increased viability of desalination today.
SOLAR WATER HEATING
New technologies for solar collectors, storage and delivery of hot water offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional electrical and gas powered systems.
GEOTHERMAL AND AIR-SOURCE HEAT PUMPS
A geothermal heat pump (or ground source heat pump) is a central heating and/or cooling system that pumps heat to or from the ground. It uses the earth as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems
An air-source heat pump uses outside air as a heat source or heat sink. A compressor, condenser and refrigerant system are used to absorb heat at one place and release it at another. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel, like in combustion heating systems.
Manufacturers are developing water heaters and appliances that not only use less water, but also require less power to operate them. From high efficiency water heaters to Energy Star-rated dishwashers, washing machines, boilers and room air conditioners, these products are much greener than models produced even as recently as five years earlier.
By embracing these new technologies and methods, the plumbing industry has made and will continue to make historic inroads toward increased sustainability by striking a harmonic balance between cost, energy consumption and conservation. The industry takes water efficiency and preservation seriously and promotes it to consumers within their homes and businesses and among their elected leaders. Long entrenched habits of misuse of our clean and inexpensive water supply have threatened its sustainability and the plumbing industry recognizes the leadership role it must play in changing those habits for the betterment of mankind.
The World Plumbing Council — Uniting the world plumbing industry and promoting the role of plumbing in improving health and safeguarding the environment.