Phase 3: Interpreting Information
Information From Local Contacts:
Erin and I also walked around SFJ and talked to random storeowners about where they thought their water came from and what the quality of it was. Our first encounter was with the two Ms. Yang's from the Muslim ErKuai Shop. When asked about where their water came from, they said it was from the water plant up on the mountain that treated most of Xizhou's tap water. They boiled the water.
Our next encounter was with Ms. Ma who owned a bakery/cake shop near SFJ. I asked her where her water comes from and she said it is groundwater. She boasted that it was 99.6% clean and that it was the best water. She said it was better than water from the mountain. Ms. Ma also strongly believes in the significance of recycling and reusing. After washing her hands, she uses the water to water her plants, she also washes the dishes, vegetables, or clothes with it, before using it to flush toilets, or mopping the floor.
We then met another Yang family that owned a snack/convenience shop near SFJ. They proudly offered us some of the water they claimed had come from the nearby well. When Erin and I visited the well we discovered the water didn't look very clean and had little bugs or plastic wrappers floating on the surface. Mrs. Yang also told me that although their water was "clean," many foreigners or people not local to Xizhou could not drink the well water directly without having stomach problems or diarrhea afterwards. She claimed that local's had already gotten used to it and the water no longer had any ill effects on them.
I also learned a lot from Shi Li Hong (aka Shirley Hong) a director of 唤醒绿色虎 "Waking The Green Tiger" a documentary about environmental issues and progress in China. A big part of the documentary focuses around development of Dams in China and the efforts from different people to preserve local villagers' homes and land. I watched all three parts of her documentary and learned a lot about the history of the pollution of Lakes in China including the Dianchi Lake and Erhai Lake and what the Government has been doing to improve environmental conditions (focusing around water) in China.
Erin and I met Ms. Shirley Hong at the Elephant Cafe in Dali Old town and learned a lot about the water situation in Erhai. I was very interested in her documentary and she mentioned the main problem about the water treatment plants being that there wasn't a big enough network to include all the wastewater in the Xizhou Area and that lots of it ran directly into the Lake- further polluting it. She also mentioned the issues about the lack of sufficient operational funds, as the government spent a lot of money BUILDING such wastewater treatment plants instead of putting funds towards operating all of them. She said there are 2 sources of drinking water- mountain water and groundwater, and that groundwater used to be good but has now been contaminated with pollution and it is not as clean as it used to be. She mentioned that due to the high levels of phosphorus and lead in the water, there is a very high percentage of people with Gallstones in Dali. She told us that almost 80% of the people in the hospital had gallstones while she was hospitalized for the same reason. Ms. Hong also mentioned that the sewage treatment plants only collected urban waste and failed to help villages around the lake. (5a)
We then got the opportunity to visit the watertreatment plant near the Linden Centre again and talked to Mr. Yang- the head engineer. He further explained the process of water treatment to us and we got to look at a lot of the different stages the water goes through. He claimed that over 50% of Xizhou's sewage water was treated but that meant that there was still another 50% of houses that had untreated sewage that went directly to the lake. We also discovered that any houses (including the Linden Centre) that were downhill from the water treatment plant would not have their sewage treated because of the use of natural gravitational forces to allow the water to flow directly to the treatment plant. (4)
Information from 3-5's
Also, after recently talking to multiple sources- including visiting the nearby wastewater treatment plant and chatting to one of the workers there - I discovered many interesting facts about different processes the water goes through at the plant. The water at the plant comes from houses all over Xizhou through underground pipes. Most of the water is household waste such as water from showers or taps. The processes include physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove contaminants. After the water is treated, it doesn't go back to houses like I thought it did, but instead is disposed of, or reused (usually for agricultural purposes.) The goal of the specific plant is to create/treat the water and so it is not harmful to the environment. Most of the water (I believe-if my translation was correct and from my research) goes through Pretreatment (which includes screening, filtering, and "Grit Removal," before passing through its Primary Treatment which is also known as the sediment stage in tanks/basins. After that, water passes through Secondary Treatment which degrades biological content through "aerobic biological processes." The waterplant at Xizhou also had constructed wetlands where their water went to before being sent to other areas. Apparently the wetlands allow high biological improvement as they copy natural wetlands- called the "kidneys of the earth." The water also goes through Disinfection which supposedly reduces number of microorganisms in the water to be sent back into the environment for later use of irrigation. The man also said that during dry seasons they would recycle more of the water; however, during rainy seasons, if the amount of water met the required levels, the excess would be flushed into Lake Erhai.
Background Information (Phase One, Step 4)
I did not really know that much about the water usage/treatment in the specific part of Yunnan that we are going to. However, I do know quite a lot of weird facts about the water treatment in diferent places within Yunnan. For example, I believe there is a wastewater treatment plant near one of Yunnan's largest cities- I believe it's the second largest but not quite sure- a bit of extra research told me the plant is called: Zhanyi Wastewater treatment plant. Wastewater treatment usually includes one of the following:
- Sewage treatment – treatment and disposal of human waste.
- Industrial wastewater treatment – the treatment of wet wastes from manufacturing industry and commerce including mining, quarrying and heavy industries.
- Agricultural wastewater treatment – treatment and disposal of liquid animal waste, pesticide residues etc. from agriculture. (1)
I don't know if the area we are going to has something like that, but it's an interesting concept.
Then there is the fact that Yunnan's lakes and rivers have been deteriorating really rapidly because of pollution, and that of the 53 lakes and reservoirs in the province, 27 are not considered "environmentally functional." Of the 75 main rivers in the province, 22 percent are heavily polluted. The Report also said that Erhai Lake in Dali currently at perilous turning point between medium and heavy eutrophication, which eventually removes oxygen from a body of water and leads to the destruction of all animal life. Erhai Lake should be VERY close to XiZhou. (2)
Also, after reading some of the inquiry projects already done on water treatment, I decided to do some more research on the algae blooms mentioned, I found this:
"In 1996 and 2003 Erhai Lake experienced two large-scale blue algae blooms, which combined with industrial and agricultural pollution to reduce the lake's water quality to Class IV.
Since 2003, the Dali Government has spent over 2 billion RMB (US$299Million) to improve Erhai Lake's water quality, with a focus on reducing the amount of pollution entering the lake" - Nov 2, 2010
Here is an excerpt from one of the replies I got to my email to experts: " As for question 10, in addition to using the biogas septic tank as a sanitation technology, I think villages could use ceramic water filters as an alternative way to clean their drinking water. I believe there are some companies and NGOs in China trying to promote ceramic water filters at the moment. " (3)
Answers to Previous Questions (From Phase 1, Step 5):
1. Where does drinking water and "washing" water come from?
Many locals get their drinking water at a nearby well. We met an old man near one of the popular wells in Xizhou and he claimed the water was "the best in China." Often tap-water comes from the ground-water plant up the mountain.
2. How clean is that water? The water is supposedly very clean and nutritious; however, after doing a coliform water test on supposedly the "best water in China," I am unsure of exactly how clean it is...
3. Where does the waste water from a house go to? To the closest wastewater plant in Xizhou, or in some cases directly to Lake Erhai.
4. What grade is the water in Xizhou? The water is fairly clean. No one really knows the grade though.
5. Are there any health "effects" related to the water consumed? There are very high levels of a specific chemical in the water here, apparently it is not good for the human body and there are effects- according to the man interviewed at the water plant.
6. How is water filtered? Is it filtered? Some local's get drinking water from the taps which are treated and processed in a plant on the mountains. However, most locals drink the water from the well directly. No boiling.
7. What do locals do to prepare drinking water? Is there anything special? They drink water from the well directly.
8. What happened to the algae blooms? How did Xizhou react? The algae blooms didn't directly affect Xizhou; however, the government put a lot of water into reducing pollution and harmful toxins in Lake Erhai as previously mentioned above.
9. I learned that villagers often rely on the water stream from the mountain, what are the changes from global warming as the years go by? Less and less water comes from the mountain stream and more people rely on the groundwater.
10. What more modern ways of recycling wastewater could be brought to small rural towns/villages like Xizhou to better citizens lives? Perhaps the implantation of ceramic water filters (3), or the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant networks. (5a)
(1)Wikipedia: a) Sewage treatment: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_treatment
(3) Email to experts: Angela Ni : Angela.Ni@fulbrightmail.org
(4) Wastewater Plant Near Linden Centre (Mr. Yang)- Chief Engineer
(5) Local Contacts: a) Ms. Shirley Hong