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Veggie-Plastic Finds a Niche in the Most Ancient of Man-Made Forms of Moving Water to Populations


Phoenix, AZ. You can be forgiven for thinking that Romans invented aqueducts for they took it to its ultimate engineering magnificence and many fine examples exist today, but the history of this form of water movement goes back almost 4,000 years.

Evidence exists today on Crete showing the ancients were channeling water in the early part of the 2nd millennium BCE (‘Before Common Era’) for drinking water and farming irrigation.

In Mesopotamia, aqueducts and tunnels were constructed as early as 900 BCE, but simple irrigated agriculture in Mesopotamia was carried out as far back as the 4th or 5th millennium BCE with a massive increase in irrigation works in the Euphrates Valley around the 3rd. millennium BCE.

In the 700 BCE, a wide canal crossed a 918-foot long bridge carrying water to Nineveh, an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia (on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq). A 1,761-foot long tunnel then fed water to Jerusalem.

“The Greeks came into the picture around the 700 BCE and then the Romans with the first aqueduct to serve Rome being the nearly 10-mile long Aqua Appia in 312 BCE. The Anio Vetus aqueduct followed in 272-269 BCE and the 56-mile long Aqua Marcia one in 144-140 BCE,” stated Peter Roosen, the pioneer of a unique veggie-plastic that is bringing the protection qualities of rock with the versatility of plastic to concrete coatings.

Remains of earthenware used to pipe water in China date back to early 200 BCE, but bamboo used for a different purpose significantly pre-dates water use. The Chinese employed bamboo pipe as early as 500 BCE in its first ever usage to transport gas, taking it from shallow wells to light their capital, Peking.

“The Romans truly took aqueduct engineering to its absolute zenith for those times. Testament to the excellence of their construction can still be seen today in Italy and France. The aqueduct in Segovia was 91 feet high and the Pont du Gard in southern France was a staggering 160 feet high.”

Roosen, who is a mechanical engineer by education, said aqueducts still play an important role in North America.
“One hundred percent of the water feeding New York goes via aqueducts. The Big Apple’s supply comes from a system that comprises three aqueducts and three tunnels moving 1.2 million gallons of fresh water a day.

“The biggest there is the Delaware Aqueduct, which was completed in 1945, and brings water from tributaries of the Delaware River in the Western Catskills. It provides about 50% of the New York City’s water supply. This is closely followed by the Catskill Aqueduct which supplies 40%.”

In the UK, the largest ‘modern’ aqueduct is the Thirlmere Aqueduct in North West England which was built between 1890 and 1925 and runs 96 miles. It is the longest gravity-fed aqueduct in the country, with no pumps along its route. But, Thirlmere is dwarfed by comparison with the Colorado River Aqueduct (‘CRA’) in the US at 242 miles long. Beating the CRA is The Central Arizona Project which allows the passage of water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona. At 336 miles, it is the largest aqueduct ever constructed in the United States.

Aqueducts are water carrying systems, and, like all systems, they need maintenance and oversight on keeping them as clean as possible because the water, ultimately, will be mostly for human consumption so repair materials must reflect the need for purity.

It was 25 years ago that Roosen first invented a bio-renewable plasticized gypsum coating made from castor oil and gypsum. Initially used for creating flexible mouldings and on ferry decks, it soon became apparent that it had extraordinary adhesion powers and wide resistance to a large array of chemicals which attack concrete and steel.

But, its most important qualities in terms of bio purity are that is entirely free of Volatile Organic Compounds (‘VOCs), BPA-free, phthalate-free, solvent-free, and is NSI/NSF-61 rated for use in contact with potable water.

Castagra’s partners in Denver, Colorado, are working on canals that transport water that ends up coming out of the taps of over 1.2 million people in the city and its suburbs. Similarly, Ecodur has been used to repair canals in Phoenix, Arizona, where its ability to penetrate the deepest cracks and then form an impenetrable plug that will last decades, is attracting wider attention as the coating diversifies within the water and wastewater industries.

Even scores of manhole covers and their immediate concrete interiors have been coated to provide the purest possible gateway entry point for road water run-off.

Roosen said, “Most people are familiar with how quickly raw steel rusts, but they tend to think of concrete as being everlasting. Not so, salts attack it readily and if any rebar in it is remotely exposed to the elements it deteriorates rapidly blowing apart surrounding concrete.

“It is one of the great ironies of history that only the Romans ever came up with an everlasting form of concrete and, still today, we have not been able to replicate it. It was used widely in their sea port construction and the effects of seawater actually made it strengthen with crystallisation continuing inside it.

“Our Ecodur grips to concrete like nothing else out there. 20-year plus brine tests have shown no measurable deterioration whatsoever. It also permanently retains its flexibility and ability to totally re-bond to original Ecodur surfaces. Frankly, in ideal conditions we have not been able to calculate the upper limit of its longevity.”

Roosen said that aside from maintaining adequate food supply for the world’s population, estimated to have reached 7,500,000,000 on April 24, 2017 and 11.2 billion in the year 2100, water supply is of co-equal importance.

“Climate change can shift water availability very dramatically. Today, deserts are spreading, glaciers are shrinking and aquifers falling. Four thousand years ago, the Mesopotamians had mathematics, algebra and geometry and yet their civilisation ended around 539 BCE with the Persian invasion which roughly coincided with the ending of their flood plain agriculture through salinization that had previously supported the population.

“I can’t help but think that we what we are doing now is something akin to the myth about the little Dutch boy putting his finger in a leaking hole in a sea dyke which stopped it massively failing. Seventy-three percent of the world is covered by water which, for many of us, gives us a false sense of security that drinking water will always be available.

“Today, 663 million people globally are still don’t have clean water and the vast majority of them, 522 million, live in rural areas. More than 800,000 people die each year directly from contaminated drinking water, and not being able to properly wash their hands. Water-related diseases claim nearly 3.5 million lives annually in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

Roosen said that sometimes an excess of water can cause catastrophe. “In Chile, in February this year, a flood left a million households in Santiago without drinking water for several days. What this should remind us all is that acts of nature, such as earthquakes for example, can potentially wreck water mains, fracture gas lines, bring down electricity pylons.

“Cities are ravenous entities, consuming vast quantities of water and energy, and clearly they will never stop growing. Nature has a way of reminding us that we are very fragile inhabitants of this planet and we should plan and act accordingly on a global scale to mitigate potential disasters.

“Ancient aqueducts are reminders too of times gone by when civilizations rose to great heights and eventually failed. We need to be sticking our finger in the hole and figuring out ways we can take positive steps to provide additional potable water to highly vulnerable areas before we get nature’s next big reminder,” concluded Roosen.