Water is the beginning of life. Especially sweet water, which makes our planet so unique. Life is only possible with its existence and we couldn’t survive without. Only three percent of the water on earth is sweet water (or drinking water), and just one per cent is available for the human beings.
If you think of that fact, there is just one simple conclusion: we have to take care of our ecosystem, specially rivers and lakes.
What we wanted to show in our project is how to care about our water and to indicate the main problem of the topic “water pollution”.
The problem of water pollution in Switzerland
Industrial chemicals, pesticides, drug residues and hormones – in sewage treatment plants (also ARA = Abwasser-Reinigungs-Anlage), is a huge chemical mix. However, many of these substances cannot be filtered out of the water, even if the sewage treatment plants are state-of-the-art.
Thanks to modern analysis methods, even the smallest amounts of substances can be found in the water. Since these toxic substances cannot be filtered out of the water, due to their molecular structure, they pass the sewage treatment plant unhindered and reach the waters and possibly even our drinking water.
A reason, why so much poisonous substances land in water is the dung (Dünger) of the agriculture, which is needed for arable farming (Ackerwirtschaft), but also antibiotics which are given to the animals also lands in the water. None other European country “sprays” more pesticides in agriculture than Switzerland. More than 2,000 tons of toxins land in our fields every year – even though the government wanted to reduce pesticide usage to 1,500 tons by 2005. The goal was never approached.
This big amount of poison in the groundwater (Grundwasser) is not only dangerous for the Swiss wildlife – also humans are threatened with the risk of getting irremediable infections (unheilbare Infektionen).
Excursion at the sewage treatment plant in Wetzikon ZH
The sewage treatment plant of Wetzikon, Canton Zurich, cleans the water of the hole community and the countryside around, which is flowing through the sewage water system. (underground tunnels where the water gets to the ARA). We went for a visit there and had a guided tour (Special thanks to Mr. Bhend).
As well as in the sewage water system, there are also very many pumping stations (installations with whom water can be lifted up) at the ARA Wetzikon, because the landscape is too flat for the water to flow through the hole plant on its own.
The hole cleaning-cycle (Ablauf) is very complex, with all its biological and chemical processes (which we can’t explain in detail). It is also a problem, that all the water which comes from rain or from the households can’t be saved for dry phases – when there is much rainfall, everything reaches the sewage treatment plants at the same time. So if the ARA is too small, the polluted water will get back to the nature uncleaned.
A drop of water is in the ARA for about 24 hours, before it is jetted out to a stream. At this moment, the drop of water will never be this clean again, as it is at this very moment.
The sewage treatment plant plans to create a new step during the water-cleaning, that will reduce the problematic micropollutants [Mikroverunreinigung]. But this project will cost around 5 Million Swiss Francs, so it isn’t cheap at all.
Turkey’s Water Potential / Situation
In contrary to the general perception, Turkey is neither a country rich in freshwater resources nor the richest country in the region in this respect.
Turkey is situated in a semi-arid region, and has only about one fifth of the water available per capita in water rich regions such as North America and Western Europe. Water rich countries are those which have 10.000 cubic meters of water per capita yearly. This is well above the 1.500 cubic meters per capita in Turkey.
Another point is that Turkey’s water is not always in the right place at the right time to meet present and anticipated needs. Certain regions of Turkey such as the Black Sea region have ample (reichlich) but unusable freshwater, while some of the more heavily populated and industrialized regions such as the Marmara and the Aegean regions lack sufficient fresh water. Source: Turkey’s Policy on Water Issues (mfa.gov.tr)
Izmir’s wastewater treatment plant
Since 2000 Izmir has got the Largest municipal wastewater treatment plant in Turkey with a capacity of 4 millions PE (=population equivalents). Get an overview here »
Source: Izmir, Wastewater Treatment, Turkey (wabag.com)
Tips about preventing water pollution
Use fewer chemicals to clean your home
It’s an easy switch that makes a big difference. Using toxic chemicals like bleach and ammonia to clean your home is not only bad for the water supply, it’s not necessary.
Don’t flush medication.
Medication is made with a variety of substances that can be detrimental (schädlich) to the water supply.
Don’t flush trash.
Flushing items that don’t break down, like diapers, wet wipes, and plastic tampon applicators can cause problems in the sewer system (Kanalisation). These items will eventually end up in local streams, rivers and other bodies of water, where they can harm fish and other wildlife. Instead of flushing them down the toilet, throw them away.
Avoid using plastic.
Since it isn’t biodegradable, plastic often ends up collecting in rivers, lakes and oceans when it has nowhere else to go.
Don’t use pesticides (Pflanzenschutzmittel) and herbicides.
These chemicals are sprayed on the surface of the yard, but when it rains they leach deep into the ground and get into the groundwater below.
The team “Water Pollution” went with the “Overfishing” team to the Lake Greifensee where we visited a real fisherman. We thought that he would have also some important/interesting ideas and conclusions about the topic of water pollution.
We were very glad, meeting such an intelligent, pleasant and competent person, who was able to give us some further information about the local water pollution.
Most of the People may think that the Swiss water quality is one of the best in the world. Today it is true that Switzerland might be one of the leaders in this field. But the situation was not always like that in the past.
The fisherman told us that Lake Greifensee had been one of the dirtiest lakes in Europa. The water quality was not good at all. Until the 60’s, the Situation was worrying. The hole waste water of the “Zürcher Oberland” had been flowing uncleaned into the lake. Some races of fish like the powan (Felchen) were threatened to become extinct. The main reason was the farming. A lot of manure and lead (Dünger und Blei) ended up in the lake. Old “sea bears” used to say that the lake stank. But when the first treatment water plants came up, the situation changed dramatically in the 70’s. According to the fisherman “the water from Lake Greifensee is almost drinkable”.
The quality of the water increased extremely the last few years, despite the fact that Lake Greifensee is still one of the dirtiest lakes in the area of Zurich. In summer it can occur that fish have lack of oxygen because of high water temperatures. The reason for that is the past. But the government found a solution to pump air into the sea. Nowadays the life of the animals in the sea is safe.
Such as these experiences are the reason why project work can be funny and interesting.
The problem with water pollution is global. Inventions such as the wastewater treatment plants helped improving the water quality tremendously. Actually, we cannot really sense the negative effects about this topic, but the problem will increase in the future. What we can do is to take care while we do minding about the above described tips preventing water pollution.
For further information
Initiative sauberes Trinkwasser (initiative-sauberes-trinkwasser.ch)
Wasserverschmutzung verhindern (fantacine.com)
Seeverschmutzung Rapperswil-Jona (Zürichsee-Zeitung, zsz.ch)
10 Fakten über Lösungen zur Wasserverschmutzung (fantacine.com)
Thank you for your attention!
Matthias, Jakob, Team Zürich
Senca, Ece, Yagmur, Team Izmir