In the days following the tsunami that struck southern Asia, it was evident that relief efforts would be massive. In addition to the response from governments and people around the globe, I could not help but think what our industry could do to assist. Especially as most news sources cited the immediate need for fresh water.
Shortly thereafter, the WWD editorial offices began to see and hear reports of donations from a variety of companies in our industry to help the affected areas. Here is a brief sampling of the efforts:
- USFilter/Siemens contributed seven water treatment units each capable of providing 26,400 gpd to convert raw water into water fit for drinking and other potable uses. The company also donated close to $2 million;
- ITT provided water purifying equipment in the form of 60 portable water treatment units, which can produce 100,000 gph combined, as well as numerous chlorinators and $500,000;
- ZENON, in conjunction with Eureka Forbes, donated 54 water filtration units capable of producing up to 7,000 gpd each, as well as service and maintenance for the units to ensure safe drinking water;
- GE donated two, 52-ft mobile water treatment units, which can produce a combined capacity of nearly 864,000 gpd, and the resources of more than 50 GE engineers, scientists and project managers to help provide safe drinking water; and
- Water for People helped to facilitate communications, volunteer efforts and cash donations amongst many water organizations including AWWA, WEF, WQA, AMWA, NAWC, AMSA and IWA.
Similarly, there was the effort of one individual that seemed to stand out among the various reports as well.
Jayantha Obeysekera, a Sri Lanka native who is a director in the office of modeling for the South Florida Water Management District, vowed to use his water-related expertise to help tsunami victims in southern Asia.
Obeysekera, along with dozens of SFWMD employees, are currently working on a number of projects including a concept paper to organize a collaborative effort between scientists in the U.S. and Sri Lanka to work together on technical matters associated with water and the environment. Obeysekera’s group is brainstorming ways they can help, one of which is trying to increase GIS and remote sensing capabilities with universities in Sri Lanka to enable Sri Lankans to do analysis themselves.
“I hope to send a couple of computers and software if I can find firms to donate them,” Obeysekera told WWD.
While most of Obeysekera’s efforts are still in the early stages, he hopes all of the projects will mature in the upcoming weeks. It’s easy to see by the short-term relief efforts provided by the water and wastewater industry that ample relief was quickly made available. But, what about the long-term effects the tsunami may have on the southeast Asia water supply?
It has been reported that many artesian wells in the area have become inflicted by salt water. Reports indicated that it could take three months or more for the well water to be naturally desalinated but that depends on rainwater, in a sense, washing away the salt. In order to speed up the process, chlorine has been added to these wells and various pumping and filtering methods are being considered.
While the short-term relief efforts have been seemingly met, it is imperative that the water/wastewater industry recognizes the need for a commitment to long-term support and development.