Friday, December 5, 2014

The importance of soils on World Soil Day

Land is now considered to be a finite resource under significant threat from farming, industry and development.  Land is key in all water processes. The basis of land is of course soil which provides us with our food, fodder for livestock, fuel, fibre, building materials, and much more.  It is key to all ecosystem services including the hydrological cycle, water availability, aquifer recharge and catchment management.   Soil also harbours a significant portion of global biodiversity and is a key component in the carbon cycle and the storage and sequestration of carbon dioxide. World soil day has been celebrated each year since 2002 to raise awareness and to support action to protect and enhance soil quality.  The FAO are now the key organizers of events all around the world to celebrate World Soil Day.

Here is a message from FAO Land & Water Division Director, Moujahed Achouri

For more information about FAO World Soil Day contact Professor Nick Gray (

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Research Theme Underway: New paper on Peat Filtration

There are many domestic treatment systems available but little real treatment data on existing systems carried out independently.    So our new research theme asks the question: How good are small-scale biological treatment systems?

Most studies on treatment systems have been done immediately post commissioning leading to over expectations of systems and generally poor performance evaluation which could result in long term environmental problems.

So just how well do these systems work?  The first paper in this series has just been published jointly with John Coady and there are 50 free downloads for the paper which became available online on September 3rd 2014. Link:

The full reference is:

N.F. Gray and  J. Coady (2014): Evaluation of full-scale vertical peat biofilters for treatment of septic tank effluents, International Journal of Environmental Studies, DOI:  10.1080/00207233.2014.954819

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Research ethics

An interesting article came to my notice the other day by David Resnick with the title What is ethics in research and why it is important?  One of the things that is popping up increasingly frequency in research applications is a section on ethics, so I was delighted to see this article.

David is a bioethicist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.   He gives a number of interesting case studies and tackles a number of thorny issues such as who should be included as an author on a research paper.   An entertaining and enlightening short article.  Access the article here. (Nick Gray)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Water Services Bill: Privatization and Charges

I think there is an enormous amount of naivety surrounding the future of Irish Water and water charges which probably has not been clarified by the recent passing of the Water Services Bill. First is that it is inevitable that the private sector will take an increasingly significant role in managing and providing water services in Ireland which will lead inevitably to privatization. The current situation of paying companies to operate water and sewage treatment facilities does not make long term sense as the investment in plants is simply not being made. Also the lack of a coherent and suitable training as well as the absence of a career structure in the industry needs to be addressed and this is probably best served by privatization. There are few companies with the experience to take on a sector of this magnitude and so it is obvious that one of the major European water companies would be best suited.

The second area of naivety surrounds water charges. What is the charge for exactly? The current suggestion of €300-350 as an average seems to be for water supply…in other countries there are two charges one for supplying water and another for taking it away after you have used it for treatment and finally disposal. So inevitably water charges contain two separate elements. So will you only pat half of the water charge if you have a home treatment system? It would appear that we should expect a second charge for wastewater bringing the expected total bill to around €500-750 per household which would be similar to that in the UK. This is something that I would like to see clarified.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I Pick up Litter

Some months ago in a blog post I mentioned that I try and take a plastic bag with me while river sampling and spend a few minutes before leaving picking up any litter. Link  A few people have commented about this and asked precisely why.  So here is why:

So all that litter on the road finds its way into ditches and streams eventually ending up in estuaries and  the sea.  So picking up litter really is a positive action, and next time you walk on the beach, take home some  of that rubbish that has been washed up.  Sir David Attenborough agrees:

For more information vist

Nick Gray

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Special Journal Edition: Drinking Water and Health

Three Potential Sources of Microfungi
in a Treated Municipal Water
Supply System in Sub-Tropical Australia.

A new special edition of papers dealing with a wide range of health issues of drinking water has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and edited by Professor Nick Gray.

The full reference and online access is:
Gray, N.F. (2012) (editor) Drinking Water and Health. A special issue of the  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8-9, (ISSN 1660-4601).
Link to papers:

List of papers:
• Maxine Burton, Emma Cobb, Peter Donachie, Gaby Judah, Val Curtis and Wolf-Peter Schmidt. Article: The Effect of Handwashing with Water or Soap on Bacterial Contamination of Hands. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(1), 97-104; doi:10.3390/ijerph801009

• Virgínia M. Siqueira, Helena M. B. Oliveira, Cledir Santos, R. Russell M. Paterson, Norma B. Gusmão and Nelson Lima: Review: Filamentous Fungi in Drinking Water, Particularly in Relation to Biofilm Formation. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(2), 456-469; doi:10.3390/ijerph8020456

• Zhihua Hu, Lois Wright Morton and Robert L. Mahler. Article: Bottled Water: United States Consumers and Their Perceptions of Water Quality. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(2), 565-578; doi:10.3390/ijerph8020565

• Noel B. Sammon, Keith M. Harrower, Larelle D. Fabbro and Rob H. Reed. Article: Three Potential Sources of Microfungi in a Treated Municipal Water Supply System in Sub-Tropical Australia. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(3), 713-732; doi:10.3390/ijerph8030713

• Mark Ibekwe, Shelton E. Murinda and Alexandria K. Graves. Article: Microbiological Evaluation of Water Quality from Urban Watersheds for Domestic Water Supply Improvement. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(12), 4460-4476; doi:10.3390/ijerph8124460

• Jocelyne K. Mwabi, Bhekie B. Mamba and Maggy N. B. Momba. Article: Removal of Escherichia coli and Faecal Coliforms from Surface Water and Groundwater by Household Water Treatment Devices/Systems: A Sustainable Solution for Improving Water Quality in Rural Communities of the Southern African Development Community Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(1), 139-170; doi:10.3390/ijerph9010139

• Kyle Onda, Joe LoBuglio and Jamie Bartram. Article: Global Access to Safe Water: Accounting for Water Quality and the Resulting Impact on MDG Progress. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(3), 880-894; doi:10.3390/ijerph9030880

• Jason Roberge, Mary Kay O’Rourke, Maria Mercedes Meza-Montenegro, Luis Enrique Gutiérrez-Millán, Jefferey L. Burgess and Robin B. Harris. Article: Binational Arsenic Exposure Survey: Methodology and Estimated Arsenic Intake from Drinking Water and Urinary Arsenic Concentrations. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(4), 1051-1067; doi:10.3390/ijerph9041051

• Robert Bain, Jamie Bartram, Mark Elliott, Robert Matthews, Lanakila McMahan, Rosalind Tung, Patty Chuang and Stephen Gundry. Article: A Summary Catalogue of Microbial Drinking Water Tests for Low and Medium Resource Settings. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(5), 1609-1625; doi:10.3390/ijerph9051609

• Jyotsna S. Jagai, Jeffrey K. Griffiths, Paul K. Kirshen, Patrick Webb and Elena N. Naumova. Article: Seasonal Patterns of Gastrointestinal Illness and Streamflow along the Ohio River. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(5), 1771-1790; doi:10.3390/ijerph9051771

• Catherine D. Luyt, Roman Tandlich, Wilhelmine J. Muller and Brendan S. Wilhelmi. Review: Microbial Monitoring of Surface Water in South Africa: An Overview. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(8), 2669-2693; doi:10.3390/ijerph9082669

• Piergiorgio Bolasco, Antonio Contu, Patrizia Meloni, Dorio Vacca and Andrea Galfrè. Article: Microbiological Surveillance and State of the Art Technological Strategies for the Prevention of Dialysis Water Pollution. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(8), 2758-2771; doi:10.3390/ijerph9082758

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September edition of Science Spin now available

The latest edition of Science Spin, Ireland’s own science magazine edited by Tom Kennedy doesn’t have anything specific on water this issue but is well worth a look anyhow.  There is a very interesting article by Tom looking at the levels of metal contamination in Dublin soils, with As, Pb and Hg all showing surprising high concentrations in the topsoil.  This is quite surpsing given the relatively low level of industrialization. The digital version is available via this link.