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This is one in a series of stories; visit The Daily Meal Special Report: Water for more.
Going into our bathrooms or kitchens, turning on the tap, and having a stream of clean, safe water come rushing out is a simple action that most of us take for granted. But this is a luxury that much of the world doesn't share. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015 there were approximately 663 million people worldwide with no access to improved and sanitary drinking water, and only 58 percent of the world’s population has the convenience of clean water through a piped supply. That means water for drinking, but also for sanitation, agriculture, and food production.
Those of us who do have ready access to good water get it from a complex series of underground pipes that bring it into our houses and workplaces from various sources, often far away. In New York City, famous for the pleasant flavor of its tap water, water is sourced from a network of 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes in a 1,972-square-mile watershed that extends northwest of the city. The system has a storage capacity of 550 billion gallons. Water flows from these various sources into two main reservoirs near the city, 95 percent of it by gravity, through three aqueducts, the oldest of which was built in 1890. Two water tunnels (a third is under construction) bring water into the city and its network of pipes. In Los Angeles, water comes from the Colorado River, from groundwater, and from the Owens River, Mono Lake Basin, and other sources in the eastern Sierras. A 223-mile-long aqueduct shuttles it to the metropolitan area. (The city of Los Angeles and farmers in the Sierras waged what has been called the California Water Wars in the early decades of the 20th century; the film Chinatown revolved around a fictionalized version of the conflict.) Most cities and towns have water towers designed to store a day’s worth of water (typically around a million gallons) for the local citizenry.
That's fine for most of us. But there are 750 million people in the world without regular access to clean water sources, 345 million of those in the continent of Africa, according to Water.org. According to Rosemary Gudelj, senior manager of public affairs at water.org, water insecurity can be attributed to many different causes. “One we deal with regularly in India,” she tells us, “is the inability to hook into the community water supply. We have millions of people living in ‘unofficial settlements’ with city piping running right by their homes, and yet they stand in queue for hours to get water once a week, or pay exorbitant prices to water vendors.”
In many communities in need, water can be drawn from underground wells, or directed through a system of man-made dams and canals. When these are constructed in rural communities, however, they often disturb agricultural systems. Also, digging wells or other underground water storage systems for catching rainfall are skilled jobs that require training resources, says Steve Fleischli, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) water program director. And wells, dams, and canals aren't much use in desert communities, like the arid Thar Desert on the border between India and Pakistan. In many of these dryer communities, water must be flown or trucked in a few times a week to centrally located communal distribution facilities.Water experts emphasize that water distribution is a global problem, and, contrary to media portrayal, water insecurity does not only exist in poor African or Asian communities.
Water experts emphasize that water distribution is a global problem, and, contrary to media portrayal, water insecurity does not only exist in poor African or Asian communities. The thirstiest areas of the world include sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and much of the Middle East, where rapidly changing and developing countries combine with frequent political turmoil. As a result, issues like thirst and agricultural shortages are pushed aside, says Dr. Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. But there are many rural parts of the United States with limited access to drinking and agricultural water. For instance, California has declared a state of emergency due to extreme droughts that persisted throughout 2014 and 2015. Areas without access to clean and safe water are usually poorer, rural communities that are not located near major urban areas.
Dr. Adeelhas worked abroad in areas in Africa and Asia, where clean water shortages are part of everyday life, and makes the point that these shortages affect more than just people’s thirst. “There are close linkages to food and energy that are not very obvious to people,” Adeel says. “When you throw away food, you are throwing away water. When you eat a kilogram of beef, a large part of it is water, and so on. Water is intricately linked to all of these problems of waste, over-consumption, and starvation.”
If water distribution isn’t as simple as putting homes on an interconnected water grid, how do we get water to where it’s needed? Unfortunately, there’s no blanket solution, especially when the world’s fresh water supply is slowly dwindling as the global population increases. But the United Nations and World Health Organization are working on methods for reducing our agricultural water consumption (drip irrigation systems and dry farming); they’re also making efforts to get water to where it’s needed by building complex dam and irrigation systems and even shipping water to isolated rural communities.
“In the U.S., we have laws that provide for public process, but they don’t always guarantee that those most in need are heard,” says Steve Fleischli. “Of course, internationally, those issues are amplified, and voices without resources are not heard. But everyone has a right to water and our voices need to be heard.”
Unfortunately, the problems don't stop when we find a way to distribute drinking water. Often, the water is contaminated with sewage, bacteria, or heavy metals, and needs to be purified before it can be safely consumed. According to Water.org, 3.4 million people die each year from water-related illnesses (that’s almost the population of Los Angeles), and almost half of these victims are children under the age of five. Of course, water purifiers cost quite a bit of money, although local and international fundraising helps. So does education about proper hygiene and sanitary practices.
Dr. Adeel, who has worked abroad to provide personalized solutions for communities suffering from water scarcity, believes that creativity is needed to provide access to water. In small rural communities in Uganda, for instance, the United Nations set up kiosks where merchants can sell water cheaply through a pumping station, bringing down water transportation costs and boosting the local economy.
Water experts are also looking at ways to reduce the agricultural use of water. In the future, says Fleischli, drip irrigation will become much more prominent. In drip irrigation, instead of flooding fields with water, just the right amount of water is applied to individual crops. Another solution, introduced in Pakistan, is inland aquaculture (or fish farming). This may seem counterintuitive for a region experiencing a water shortage, but, unlike plants, fish can thrive in stagnant water that’s useless for crop agriculture.
“Providing food and agricultural solutions in the international market is a way to reduce the stress on areas which might be facing water shortages,” said Adeel. “There are no magic bullets that will work everywhere, and you have to analyze each situation to find a solution, or a combination of techniques, that will work.”
How to make distilled water at home for free
If you're stuck at home and you need distilled water, it's easy to make it yourself with some basic cookware.
You just need basic cookware to get started making your own distilled water.
Distilled water can be incredibly useful to have around. Your aquarium, car maintenance, humidifier, CPAP machines or other health-related equipment can all require or benefit from distilled water.
If you don't have sufficient access to distilled water right now -- your local grocery is out of stock or you're just trying to do your part by social distancing -- you're not out of luck. I'm going to take you through the different types of water you drink, and the steps for creating your very own unlimited supply of distilled water at home. The best part is you probably don't need to buy anything to do it.
Many sous vide recipes cook for several hours or more, so set everything up somewhere it won't be in the way, but where you can also keep an eye on it. The counter is totally fine – I usually set my pot on the far side of my counter away from where I do most of my prep work.
Don't place it under an overhead cabinet (or inside a cabinet!) since the water evaporating from the pot could eventually damage the wood. You could put it on the stovetop, but if you do so, be very careful not to turn on the burner underneath or damage the cord from the circulator.
Remember that the pot will heat up along with the water, so place the pot on a trivet or pot holder to protect the surface of your counter.
Do you really need insurance for your water and sewer lines? Here’s what to know.
Millions of U.S. homeowners regularly receive official-looking notices on letterhead in envelopes bearing the logos of their utility companies. They contain ominous warnings that you, the homeowner, are responsible for repairs to water and sewer lines on your property. The clincher: If there are problems, “you could spend thousands of dollars to fix them, as most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover these repairs,” warned one “Repair Responsibility Notice.”
These notices often convince homeowners that there are hidden defects on their properties that need to be addressed. Why else would their utility companies issue such dramatic warnings?
Although these mailings seem to come from utility companies, they’re really pitches from third-party companies that have struck partnership agreements with utility providers, allowing them use of their names and logos to sell their warranty plans.
More than 7 million U.S. homeowners have so far purchased these plans, pulling in $900 million a year, according to information disclosed in annual reports from the largest warranty companies.
In the Washington area, Dominion Energy, NOVEC (a cooperative that serves large portions of Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties), and the municipal governments of District Heights, Forest Heights, Laytonsville and Poolesville partner with private warranty companies to help market these plans.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) used to help sell these plans, but in 2019, it let the agreement expire after its warranty company partner bought CroppMetcalfe, a large plumbing outfit operating in the Washington area. (WSSC issues plumbing licenses and permits and could no longer continue such a deal with a company it also regulates.)
Nationally, these deals are also widespread. The water utilities serving Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Newark, New York City, Philadelphia, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Diego and San Francisco have signed on to help private companies sell warranty plans.
Marketing materials received by homeowners often warn of dramatic potential costs if they don’t protect themselves with offered coverage. One company’s website warns of an average $2,585 cost to replace a water line, and a $3,389 cost for a sewer line. Another pegs the “typical” cost of repairs higher still: $3,500 for water, $8,500 for sewer. And a video presentation used by one company to recruit utility companies features a horror story where a couple’s burst water and sewer lines caused $20,000 in damage.
But Checkbook’s research finds that few homeowners ever have to deal with expensive water or sewer line repairs or replacements. Our researchers examined permit records and dug up similar data from several large cities and found scant evidence that this is a common job at all:
●Claims data from a WSSC interoffice memo obtained by Checkbook indicated that only 4,450 exterior water and sewer claims were made from the 126,207 plans purchased during the program’s first 2½ years, an annualized incidence rate of 1.4 percent.
●Checkbook’s review of San Francisco’s permits in 2019 found that it issued only 369 water and/or sewer line restorations or replacements — out of the 112,115 single-family homes served by the city’s utility company. The chance of needing a restoration or replacement there was only 0.3 percent.
●Minneapolis approved only 667 work permits involving home sewer laterals in 2019. That works out to a rate of 0.7 percent of the city’s approximately 100,000 sewer lines serving homes there — and because the city didn’t exclude permits for new construction from its counts, 0.7 percent is overstating the chance of trouble.
●The Philadelphia Water Department issued 2,459 “Notices of Defect” in 2019 for residential sewer laterals that the department discovered were in need of repair. That was 0.5 percent of its 481,728 customers.
Other research shows that water lines can be trouble-free for years. Juneseok Lee, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Manhattan College, looked at data supplied by a warranty company that had paid for more than 47,000 water line replacements or repairs over 10 years. Lee concluded that “it is not a question of if the piping will fail but rather when.”
However, that report’s findings indicate that “when” is probably a long, long time away. It found that lines made of copper, the most common material used for water lines, typically last 30 to 80 years. Galvanized steel pipes — also common — usually last even longer: 40 to 100 years. Even comparably weak plastic pipes (such as PVC and polyethylene) last 20 to 40 years. And because the study looked only at pipes that failed, your pipes may last a lot longer than these estimates.
How Water Gets Where It's Needed — If It Does - Recipes
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As a sugar syrup is cooked, water boils away, the sugar concentration increases, and the temperature rises. The highest temperature that the sugar syrup reaches tells you what the syrup will be like when it cools. In fact, thats how each of the temperature stages discussed below is named.
For example, at 235° F, the syrup is at the soft-ball stage. That means that when you drop a bit of it into cold water to cool it down, it will form a soft ball.
Most candy recipes will tell you to boil your sugar mixture until it reaches one of the stages below. For the best results and most accuracy, we recommend that you use both a candy thermometer and the cold water test. It's also a good idea to test your thermometer's accuracy by placing it in plain boiling water. At sea level, it should read 212° F. If it reads above or below this number, make the necessary adjustments when cooking your candy syrup.
Note: The temperatures specified here are for sea level. At higher altitudes, subtract 1° F from every listed temperature for each 500 feet above sea level.
For a temperature conversion calculator, visit our recipe conversions page.
At this relatively low temperature, there is still a lot of water left in the syrup. When you drop a little of this syrup into cold water to cool, it forms a liquid thread that will not ball up.
At this temperature, sugar syrup dropped into cold water will form a soft, flexible ball. If you remove the ball from water, it will flatten like a pancake after a few moments in your hand.
Drop a little of this syrup in cold water and it will form a firm ball, one that wont flatten when you take it out of the water, but remains malleable and will flatten when squeezed.
At this stage, the syrup will form thick, "ropy" threads as it drips from the spoon. The sugar concentration is rather high now, which means theres less and less moisture in the sugar syrup. A little of this syrup dropped into cold water will form a hard ball. If you take the ball out of the water, it wont flatten. The ball will be hard, but you can still change its shape by squashing it.
As the syrup reached soft-crack stage, the bubbles on top will become smaller, thicker, and closer together. At this stage, the moisture content is low. When you drop a bit of this syrup into cold water, it will solidify into threads that, when removed from the water, are flexible, not brittle. They will bend slightly before breaking.
The hard-crack stage is the highest temperature you are likely to see specified in a candy recipe. At these temperatures, there is almost no water left in the syrup. Drop a little of the molten syrup in cold water and it will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent. CAUTION: To avoid burns, allow the syrup to cool in the cold water for a few moments before touching it!
If you heat a sugar syrup to temperatures higher than any of the candy stages, you will be on your way to creating caramelized sugar (the brown liquid stage)a rich addition to many desserts.
Now the liquefied sugar turns brown in color due to carmelization. The sugar is beginning to break down and form many complex compounds that contribute to a richer flavor.
How to Make Distilled Water
This article was co-authored by Water.org. Water.org is an international nonprofit organization that has positively transformed millions of lives around the world through access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org pioneers market-driven solutions to the global water crisis — breaking down barriers to give women hope, children health and families a bright future.
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Distilled water has so many uses—drinking, watering plants, filling humidifiers, topping off fish tanks, and more. It’s also very easy to make at home with a few basic supplies. You actually have a few different methods to choose from depending on how much distilled water you’re trying to make. This wikiHow will walk you through all of them, step-by-step, so you can start making your very own distilled water right at home!
Easy Japanese Tempura Batter
Tempura is a popular Japanese dish of vegetables and seafood coated in a very light and airy batter and fried to perfection. It's served at Japanese restaurants worldwide, but it's also fun and easy to make from scratch at home. This is a quick recipe that's best when fried as soon as the batter is mixed and then eaten right away. Plan and prepare your dinner before you begin.
A basic Japanese tempura batter is made of flour, egg, and ice water. While simple, there are some tricks to producing crispy tempura. Ice water, sifted flour, and hot oil are just a few of the key factors that will produce restaurant-style results.
Nearly anything you can deep-fry is a candidate for tempura batter. Shrimp tempura is the best known, and chicken tenders or fish fillets work, too. For vegetables, try bell peppers, broccoli, eggplant, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes. The batter can even be used to make onion rings. Serve the tempura with your favorite dipping sauces and enjoy as an appetizer or light meal.
Cooking Bacon in Water
For the "full-water" method, I started 4 strips of bacon in enough water to cover them (probably 2 cups). I suspected this method would take the longest, since all of the water has to evaporate before the bacon starts to crisp. I was right: If you feel like adding an extra half hour to your breakfast routine, this may be the method for you, but for those of us who don’t want to spend our time watching bacon boil in a pan of water, I would suggest skipping this cooking method.
It's a Solid. It's a Liquid. It's Oobleck!
Why is it so hard to get out of quicksand? Is it a solid? Is it a liquid? Can it be both? In this activity, you will make a substance that is similar to quicksand&mdashbut much more fun. Play around with it and find out how it acts differently from a normal liquid and a normal solid.
Other, more familiar substances change states (from solids to liquids to gases) when we change the temperature, such as freezing water into ice or boiling it away into steam. But this simple mixture shows how changes in pressure, instead of temperature, can change the properties of some materials.
Applying pressure to the mixture increases its viscosity (thickness). A quick tap on the surface of Oobleck will make it feel hard, because it forces the cornstarch particles together. But dip your hand slowly into the mix, and see what happens&mdashyour fingers slide in as easily as through water. Moving slowly gives the cornstarch particles time to move out of the way.
Oobleck and other pressure-dependent substances (such as Silly Putty and quicksand) are not liquids such as water or oil. They are known as non-Newtonian fluids. This substance's funny name comes from a Dr. Seuss book called Bartholomew and the Oobleck.
&bull 1 cup of water
&bull 1 to 2 cups of cornstarch
&bull Mixing bowl
&bull Food coloring (optional)
&bull Pour one cup of cornstarch into the mixing bowl, and dip your hands into it. Can you feel how smooth the powder is? It's made up of super-fine particles.
&bull Now pour the water in, mixing slowly as you go. Keep adding more water until the mixture becomes thick (and hardens when you tap on it). Add more cornstarch if it gets too runny, and more water if it becomes too thick.
&bull Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. (If you want to turn your Oobleck another hue, it&rsquos easier to add the coloring to the water before you mix it with the cornstarch.)
&bull Oobleck is non-toxic, but please use caution when doing any science activity. Be careful not to get it in your eyes, and wash your hands after handling the Oobleck.
&bull Roll up your sleeves and prepare to get messy! Drop your hands quickly into the Oobleck, then slowly lower your hands into it. Notice the difference!
&bull Hold a handful in your open palm&mdashwhat happens?
&bull Try squeezing it in your fist or rolling it between your hands&mdashhow does it behave differently?
&bull Move your fingers through the mixture slowly, then try moving them faster.
&bull What else can you do to test the mixture's properties?
&bull Extra: If you have a large plastic bin or tub, you can make a big batch of Oobleck. Multiply the quantity of each ingredient by 10 or more and mix it up. Take off your shoes and socks and try standing in the Oobleck! Can you walk across it without sinking in? Let you feet sink down and then try wiggling your toes. What happens?
Read on for observations, results and more resources.
Observations and results
What is happening when you squeeze the Oobleck? What is happening when you release the pressure? Does the Oobleck remind you of anything else?
The Oobleck mixture isn't your typical liquid&mdashor solid. The cornstarch-and-water mixture creates a fluid that acts more like quicksand than water: applying force (squeezing or tapping it) causes it to become thicker. If you were trapped in a tub of Oobleck, what would be the best way to escape?
Share your Oobleck observations and results! Leave a comment below or share your photos and feedback on Scientific American's Facebook page.
Wash hands with water. Add plenty of extra water to the mixture before pouring it down the drain. Wipe up any dried cornstarch with a dry cloth before cleaning up any remaining residue with a damp sponge.
The Magic of Gravity
What you'll need
&bull Bottle, jar or canister with a small top opening (larger&mdashbut not too much bigger&mdashthan the coin)
&bull 3- by-5-inch note card or other sturdy piece of paper
&bull Pen or pencil
&bull Water (optional)
No go ahead and play with the Oobleck. That's the point of all this and you can find lots of tricks to try out. Here's a short list:
- Grab a handful, squeeze it, and let it ooze out your fingers.
- Make a puddle and quickly drag your fingers through it.
- Put it into a plastic container and shake it or quickly bump it against a table.
- Jab at the Oobleck and then slowly let your finger sink in.
- Put it on top of a subwoofer and play some low frequencies at high volume (tough to set up, but worth it)
Have fun and be sure to wash it all off in the end.