December 2010, Vol. 22, No.12


World Water Monitoring Day spans the globe

World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) continues to reach more people around the world every year. Participants in the international education and outreach program coordinated by the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) and the International Water Association (London) span the globe, including Vietnam, Pakistan, Bulgaria, India, and the United States.

An event held Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C., welcomed nearly 300 students from schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia and included 21 exhibits. At the other side of the world, another notable event occurred during the beginning of the year as more than 500 students helped sample 14 waterbodies in the Nhue-Day River Basin in Vietnam, the first WWMD monitoring to be conducted in that country.

WWMD encourages people to test their local waterways for a core set of water quality parameters with the program’s water testing kit between March 22 and Dec. 31 and submit results to be shared through the Web site, The extensive reach of WWMD can be seen with a new data map that provides monitoring results and any additional information provided, such as photos, videos, and comments for various locations.

Biosolids land application has antibacterial results

Soil fertilized with biosolids introduces triclosan, an antibacterial agent in soaps and other cleaning supplies, into the environment, according to a U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) news release.

ARS chemist Clifford Rice partnered with University of Maryland engineers Nuria Lozano and Alba Torrents to conduct a study that provides baseline data about triclosan levels in treated biosolids and in agricultural fields that have been amended with biosolids.

The team collected surface soil samples from 26 farms in northern Virginia from fields that have and have not been amended with biosolids from a local wastewater treatment plant. The plant averages 15.5 mg of triclosan in each kilogram of its Class B biosolids.

Farms that had not received biosolids applications had background triclosan levels peaking at 4.5 ng per gram of dried soil. Farms with single and multiple applications of biosolids also had low triclosan levels, but with concentrations varying from 3.1 to 66.6 ng per gram. The study’s results, published in Chemosphere in 2010, suggest that biological degradation of triclosan in soil amended with biosolids resulted in the loss of 78% of the triclosan after 7 to 9 months. Up to 96% was removed after 16 months.

2010 Stockholm Water Prize winner identifies causes and cures for waterborne diseases

Rita Colwell, a professor from the University of Maryland (College Park) and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States, has been named the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI; Sweden).

Colwell’s contributions to controlling the spread of cholera and solving other water-related health problems earned her recognition as one of the century’s most influential voices in science, technology, and policy associated with water and health, according to a SIWI news release.

In the 1960s, Colwell observed that the causative agent for cholera, Vibrio cholera, survives by attaching to zooplankton and entering a dormant stage that can revert to an infectious stage under the proper conditions. This observation enabled scientists to link changes in the natural environment to the spread of the disease, the news release says. Colwell also has shown how changes in climate, weather events, ocean circulation, and other ecological processes can create conditions that allow infectious diseases to spread. She also has crafted preemptive policies to minimize outbreaks.

Colwell, director of the U.S. National Science Foundation from 1998 to 2004, has authored and co-authored 17 books and more than 700 scientific publications. She was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2000. For more information, see

The sky’s the limit for potential uses of 'dry water'

"Dry water," a substance resembling powdered sugar, absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide gas, according to research reported at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS; Washington, D.C.). The substance consists of 95% water, with each powder particle containing a water droplet surrounded by modified silica. The silica coating prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid, according to an ACS news release.

Because water molecules chemically combine with gases to form hydrates, the dry water powder has been found to absorb and contain gases, according to a research group at the University of Liverpool (England). The group, led by professor Andrew Cooper, found that dry water absorbed more than three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time, the release says.

In addition to storing carbon dioxide, Cooper’s group identified dry water’s potential to store methane, which could help expand its use as an energy source. The powder also could be used by engineers to collect and transport stranded deposits of natural gas and deposits of gas hydrates, a form of frozen methane, from the ocean floor. In addition, it could provide a safer and more convenient way to store methane fuel for use in vehicles powered by natural gas, the release says.

Dry water also has promise for storing liquids, particularly emulsions (mixtures of two or more liquids that do not blend together). Transforming an emulsion into a dry powder could make it safer and easier for manufacturers to store and transport potentially harmful liquids.

The U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (Swindon, England) and the Centre for Materials Discovery (Liverpool) provided funding and technical support for the study.


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