In 1798, when Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a slightly different version of that line in his epic (long, very long) poem, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, it was about a sailing ship that was adrift near the Antarctic, and though surrounded by limitless water, people onboard were dying of thirst.
The idea that over 200 years later, 768 million people worldwide are still adrift on that ship surrounded by a planet which is 75% covered in water, and along with the Mariner still without a clean drop to drink, is a startling fact.
(Of course, like most great poetry, there can be a number of interpretations of The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, metaphysical, cultural, psychological, and others, but considering that this essay is about water, real actual water, we’ll just stick with the basic literal interpretation rather than a literary one.)
The massive need for more clean water is only one, but a particularly important one of the reasons CoreTech Foundation exists. CoreTech’s aim is doing, and helping others to do what is best for humanity by solving the world’s most pressing challengers and producing sustainable solutions that improve and preserve the quality of life. CoreTech Foundation is pledged to use technical innovations to make clean water available to those in need.
CoreTech knows that clean water must not only be produced, but must also be distributed to peoples’ homes with its purity undiminished. It must be done at an affordable price. Expensive water will not be of much help to those most in need.
The lack of clean water is not a new phenomenon. It has played an important part in history, and has at times even led to the destruction of civilizations. Throughout the middle-age, it was believed that drinking beer was far healthier than drinking water, and it was usually true. Even today a certain segment of the population still firmly believes the notion that beer drinking is healthier than water drinking. (Interestingly enough, the majority of them happen to be young males of college age.)
It has only been a little over a century and a half, a very short time historically, that people have known anything about waterborne diseases. Previously, they might have thought that something was wrong with the water, and at times chose not to drink it, but had no idea how it could be the cause of disease.
(People’s view of airborne diseases was almost the exact opposite, but equally as wrong. Today we know that malaria comes from a parasite carried by female Anopheles mosquitoes. But then it was accepted knowledge that malaria was caused by breathing bad air. The word malaria coming from the Italian mala aria – bad air. The miasma theory of disease causation was only replaced by the germ theory of disease in the second half of the 19th Century.)
In 1854, during one of London’s frequent and deadly cholera epidemics, Dr. John Snow figured out that it wasn’t an airborne disease, the miasma, causing the outbreak, but it was waterborne. He didn’t do it by discovering the germs that caused the illness, that wouldn’t happen for several more decades, he did it through what was the very latest in high-tech, innovative thinking of its time, statistics!
Dr. Snow went out collecting statistics of exactly how many people had contacted the disease, and where it was occurring. Just as importantly, he also gathered data of where people were not getting sick. After much analysis, he established that whether people caught cholera or not had nothing to do with the air they were breathing, but depended solely on the source of the water they drank.
What provided even further proof to Dr. Snow’s confidence in his statistical findings that cholera was not airborne, but was waterborne, was that the men who worked in breweries in the heart of the heavily infected areas did not get the disease because they drank beer rather than water. (Maybe those college boys know what they’re talking about!)
A few years later, London (Yes, again London) at the time the most populous city in the world, decided it had no choice but to clean up the River Thames. The Thames was not only the source of the city’s water for drinking, bathing, cooking, washing, etc. but was also its toilet. Everything was dumped directly into the Thames. It reached a point where the City of London was known as The Great Stink. (That had to hurt the tourist business. It just doesn’t seem as appealing as spending your summer vacation in The Big Apple or The City of Love.)
In what was one of the greatest ‘high-tech, innovative’ engineering feats of the entire 19th Century, the largest sewage system ever devised was built to make certain that the people of London had clean water. Not only did it work brilliantly, greatly improving the health, prosperity, and smell of the city, (and its people) but it was so well built that today, over 150 years later, it’s still in use doing its job.
The CoreTech Foundation, along with others, wonders why there are still over three quarters of a billion people who do not have access to clean water, and what can be done to change things?
Research has been going on around the world on how best to produce clean water. An early attempt consisted of filtering it through strainers to remove impurities. Very similar to what one does in making chicken soup. After all the ingredients for the soup are boiled together, they are then put through a strainer in order to separate the impurities from the broth. But it doesn’t strain out everything. Small amounts of chicken, vegetables, fat, and spices get through. Which in the case of Chicken soup only adds to its delicious flavor. But for clean water, simply running it through a strainer is far from adequate. Unfortunately, man does not live by chicken soup alone.
There have been and continue to be numerous important improvements to the filtering method. There are also other approaches being worked on. Reverse osmosis, a form of filtering, and desalinization are just two. A third very promising method is being worked on by Dean Kaman and his team. Kaman, the well-known, highly respected inventor and entrepreneur, perhaps best known to the public for his invention of the Segway, believes that vapor compression distillation is the way to go.
His water purification device – Slingshot, named for the weapon David used to defeat the mighty Goliath, can be powered by another one of Dean Kaman’s long list of dazzling inventions, a Stirling Engine. One of the many benefits of the Stirling Engine is that it is capable of running on almost any combustible fuel source, including cow dung. There are, believe it or not, several pluses in using cow dung. It’s very plentiful in many of the areas most in need of clean water. It’s cheap, you just have to pick it up, it’s natural, (one can hardly think of anything that is more natural) and its removal and proper disposal is also advantages to the health of the entire community. And if somehow, you should happen to be all out of cow dung, you can just plug a Stirling Engine into a wall outlet, or almost any other source of power.
Some of Slingshot other benefits, as reported in Wikipedia, include five years of operating without need for overhaul or maintenance, consuming less power than a hairdryer, generating 1000 liters of clean water per day, meeting the pharmacopoeia standard for water for injections, and requiring no pretreatment, pipelines engineering, or installation permits.
Whichever method, or methods are ultimately used, The CoreTech Foundation sees its role as bringing together, and joining in a close partnership with others, all working towards the long overdue goal of providing clean water for all the passengers who are sailing on the earth ship along with the Ancient Mariner.
A BRIEF ASIDE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CLEAN WATER: I was curious about something in The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Why Rime? It turns out, as some may have guessed, that rime is an anachronistic form of rhyme, and was already anachronistic 200 years ago when Coleridge used it. But, if a poet can’t use an anachronism, than who can?
However, it seems that it’s far more than just poetic license. Rime is also “A coating of ice formed by the rapid freezing of water vapor in cloud or fog.” The poem is about a ship adrift in the frigid waters around the Antarctica. It can also just as easily apply to the rime (icy coating) on the Mariner’s heart when he kills the albatross that saved them. (Everyone is familiar with that part of the poem, and then the Mariner having to wear it around his neck as punishment.) But whatever it is, Coleridge knew what he was doing. He used rime because rime is the perfect word! …I thought that was interesting…