Each day at sea, Assistant Executive Dean Rita Enders gives the voyagers on the Fall 2013 voyage a report on the water consumption for the day before: ‚ÄúFresh water consumption yesterday, 64 gallons per person,‚Äù Enders announced during a transit day in Spain. ‚ÄúOn the Fall 2012 voyage it was 55 gallons per person,‚Äù¬†she noted. Water on the MV Explorer is limited. According to the¬†US Geological Survey (USGS) the average person uses about 80-100 gallons per day.¬†Enders‚Äô report is a way to keep voyagers on the ship aware of how much water is being used and/or wasted.
‚ÄúJust because we‚Äôre sailing around on the ocean doesn‚Äôt mean we have an infinite supply of water,‚Äù explains Enders.
Water is fast becoming an economic commodity throughout the world and, in the future, may be negotiated for the way oil is today. According to the nonprofit water.org, three times more people in the world lack potable water than the number of people who live in the U.S.
‚ÄúAccess to water is a major problem in many parts of the world,‚Äù said Prof. Ralph Allen, a chemistry and environmental health professor at UVa, who‚Äôs teaching courses on water, forensic science and environmental health on this 50th anniversary voyage.
In Prof. Allen‚Äôs class, Water for the World, students are examining issues of water distribution and contamination and ways in which cities and rural areas have either brought water to their area or are struggling to do so.
The goal is to have students learn how water is managed in each of the countries. Throughout their travels in Europe students learned about water treatment, disposal, and management in urban areas. They discovered that water is distributed and managed in cities like St. Petersburg, Hamburg, Antwerp, Le Havre, and Dublin very much like it is in the U.S.
In Lisbon, the students visited the city‚Äôs former aqueduct system‚Äîenormous, old, and beautifully built structures that brought trickles of water to 18th-century Portugal and continued well into the 19th Century. Attempts to bring water to Lisbon date back to the 1500s when the city was bursting with over 100,000 people and relied on wells and springs, pulling some water from nearby Sintra.
‚ÄúI chose Lisbon because it‚Äôs a very old city that has been dealing with the issue of transferring water for a long, long time. But it hasn‚Äôt always done this in the best way,‚Äù Allen explained.
For example, he noted that, when Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, the country had to install better water treatment facilities and stop running the sewage in to the ocean.
For most of the field lab, the students focused on how old Portugal‚Äîof the 18th and 19th centuries‚Äîreceived and distributed water. Their first stop was the √Åguas Livres Aqueduct, built in the 1700s and considered Lisbon‚Äôs first monument and among its most remarkable work of hydraulic engineering. Despite its massive size‚Äîover 213 feet high and 100 feet wide with 35 arches‚Äîthe aqueduct brought only 14 liters of water per person per day to the city.
Next was the M√£e d‚Äô√Ågua das Amoreiras Reservoir, part of the √Åguas Livres Aqueduct, and used to capture water that was eventually distributed through the full aqueduct. Students wound their way through the expansive underground tunnels where water once flowed along narrow troughs. Water from the reservoir also flowed to fountains throughout the city, where residents filled buckets to bring back to their homes.
‚ÄúI was very interested walking through all those tunnels and seeing how they brought water from so far away so long ago.‚Äù said Donna Peebles, a lifelong learner who registered to take Prof. Allen‚Äôs class.
The visit to the aqueduct and hearing of Lisbon‚Äôs history of water supply, demand, and distribution gave Carl Hughes, a civil engineering major at Oregon State University, a new perspective on viewing water distribution.
‚ÄúIt seems like we should move away from a centralized water supply system,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIt didn‚Äôt seem to work for Lisbon and I think it would be a good idea to make a couple of smaller water plants and stations in different areas of each city.‚Äù
A sophomore at Oregon State, Carl is still searching for what he‚Äôd like to do in the future. ‚ÄúGetting out and seeing things like this [aqueduct] up close are also helpful to understand how different cultures solve real problems.‚Äù