Japan turns itself into paragon of drinking water utilization

11:57, March 07, 2010      

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"Honmaya" is nothing special from other bottled purified water lined up in store shelves in Osaka of Japan, except for its pink wrapping which appeals more to female customers.

But the purified water, which can be found in hundreds of convenient stores scattered around the metropolis and priced at 100 yen (1.2 U.S. Dollars) for a 500 ml bottle, has a more powerful image representative than most of the other products of the kind -- Osaka City mayor Kunio Hiramatsu.

"The water of Honmaya is nothing different from the tap water supplied to the city's households," the mayor proudly told reporters recently, using it as an example to showcase the city's superb water purification technologies.

Located at the mouth of Odo River, in Osaka, a city of 2.6 million residents, is dubbed the "aqua metropolis." The city draws water from Lake Biwa, Japan's number one lake in terms of water area, and Yodo River.

Historically, the water quality of the Yodo River had been in a state of a decline as Japan industrializes itself. However, through the adoption of new regulations and the efforts of neighboring municipalities, the water quality has improved to its current high quality in recent years.

Japan is proud to have the world's leading water purification technologies, with its water supply coverage ratio at 97.3 percent and cases of waterborne diseases at nearly zero. To take a glimpse at its water know-how, Osaka is one of the best place.

Osaka Municipal Waterworks Bureau (OMWB), which had provided clean water since its establishment in 1895, is one of Japan's oldest waterworks. Main techniques used by the waterworks to purify water from lakes and rivers include removing foul or moldy odors by ozone and granular active carbon, reducing trihalomethane, and using oxidizing properties of ozone to help protect water against micro-organisms, according to Eda Masakatsu, director engineering for water purification at OMWB.

In order to insure a steady supply of high quality water, OMWB established a mature water distribution system, and regularly conducts inspections of the purification and distribution plants and their equipment.

"Treated water is distributed to distribution plants located in various places around the city. We can assure a steady supply of water even at peak usage times by storing water in these distribution reservoirs," Masakatsu said.

As Japan is particularly disaster-prone, it also makes existing facilities resistant to earthquakes. For example, The bureau continuously replaces aged water pipes to seismic ones.

To prepare for the worst scenario of earthquakes and tsunamis, the city has dozens of water-tank vehicles ready for distribution and thousands of "water bags" in stock to prevent its citizens from suffering a potable water shortage at extreme times. It also sets up emergency water supply centers in designated refuge areas such as wide-area shelters and city parks.

The city of Osaka also regularly tests the safety and reliability of the tap water. Additionally, 40 telemeters were installed throughout the city to constantly monitor water color, turbidity, and residual chlorine concentration.

Due to its excellence in ensuring water quality, recently OMWB became the first public water sector in the world to be certified under the ISO22000, an international standard for food safety, regime for its high level water quality management.

Looking for the future, the city and the bureau aims to export its technology to water-scarce countries and regions in the world, so as to enhance international cooperation to improve the urban environment in a broader sphere.

Source: Xinhua
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