April 17, 2014

Want to make 38 million gallons of "waste water"? Pee for 40 days!

So here in Portland, we've got these big water reservoirs in a park to the city's east. They're on Mt. Tabor, which is the only volcano within the city limits of a major U.S. metro region.

Why am I boring you with this? Because Portland's going to flush 38 million gallons of water from one of these reservoirs after a dude peed in it.

But how much water can a person pee? A quart? Mix that in with 38 million gallons and... it's gone, right. Plus, pee is sterile—no germs! So why waste all that water?

"It's the conservative but correct decision," said Nick Fish the guy in charge of the Water Bureau. Yes, a guy named Fish is in charge of water.

Smart person Laura Helmuth looked at the Environment Protection Agency’s rules about clean water. She wanted to know how “poisoned” the pee actually made the reservoir. Her finding:
How many times would that teenager have to pee in a Portland reservoir to produce a [dangerous] urine concentration? About 3,333 times. 
But of course urine is 95% water… That means he’d have to urinate 166,666 times ... to approach that of the EPA’s limit for nitrates in drinking water. Since most animals, including idiot teenaged show-offs, take about 21 seconds to urinate, that means he’d have to urinate constantly for 3,500,000 seconds, or about 40 days.

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