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What is water?

Water is a clear, odorless, colorless, and tasteless substance. It’s the most abundant liquid on the planet, and it’s the only one that can be found naturally in the three states of matter as a liquid, solid, and gas. This resource is of vital importance for ecosystems and living beings to function. Without it, there would be no life.  

What are water’s properties? 

A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and its chemical formula is H2O. Its main property is that it is a universal solvent, capable of dissolving more substances than any other liquid. As water travels around the planet, it dissolves numerous substances and carries them with it. In addition to that, its most significant physical property is, as already mentioned, its existence in all three states of matter. 

What is the water cycle? 

Standing water isn’t found in certain areas of the planet, but it is in continuous motion, cycling through the seas and oceans, the continents, and the atmosphere. The water cycle is the continuous biochemical process through which water circulates, going through its different states.

The phases of the water cycle are:  

  • Evaporation: water changing from a liquid to a gas. When the water is heated by the sun, it turns into steam, rising into the atmosphere. Much of the water that evaporates comes from the oceans.
  • Condensation: the change from a gas to a liquid. As it rises, the water vapor cools and condenses, forming clouds.  
  • Precipitation: rain, snow, or hail form when droplets of water from clouds grow heavy and fall back to the Earth’s surface.
  • Infiltration and runoff: some of these droplets soak into the ground, and others travel across its surface. This is what’s known as runoff.  
  • Return to the sea: the water ends up reaching the rivers and flowing back into the sea.

Sublimation can also be part of the water cycle. This occurs when water evaporates from a solid to a gas without passing through the liquid state. This can happen in glaciers and mountain peaks with perpetual snow.

Where does the water we consume come from?  

The water we consume comes from different sources like springs, streams, rivers, lakes, and wells. Water often goes through drinking water treatment plants, where it undergoes chemical treatments to ensure that it is suitable for human consumption. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), access to safe drinking water is key to health; it is one of the basic human rights and a central part of effective health protection policies. 

What kinds of water are there? 

  • Salt water: this is found in seas and oceans and represents 97% of all water.
  • Fresh water: this is found naturally on the Earth’s surface and in underground ecosystems.
  • Brackish water: its level of salinity is between that of fresh water and seawater. 
  • Drinking water: it is suitable for human consumption. 
  • Raw or dirty water: it has not been treated.
  • Distilled water: it has been treated with a distillation process.
  • Hard water: it contains a high level of dissolved minerals.
  • Soft water: it contains low levels of salts and minerals.
  • Wastewater: water that’s been negatively affected by anthropogenic influence.
  • Sewage: water contaminated by feces or urine.
  • Gray waters: those resulting from domestic use.

What has Ferrovial’s path been in water management? 

Ferrovial has more than 50 years of experience in designing, building, operating, and maintaining plants for drinking water purification plants, urban and industrial wastewater, and desalination. The projects are carried out through two partner companies: the multinational Cadagua, founded in December 1971 and specializing in water treatment; and the American company PLW Waterworks, innovating in hydraulic systems and infrastructures since 2015. 

Ferrovial has been involved in more than 460 projects for designing and building plants related to water and its treatment, purification, or desalination. In all, these reach a capacity of almost 18,000,000 m³ per day, supporting more than 41,000,0000 individuals. All of the projects respond to Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: clean water and sanitation. From 2008 to today, we’ve carried out more than 28 projects around the world and invested more than €6 million in fulfilling our commitment. 

The Social Infrastructure program seeks to improve and expand access to drinking water for human consumption, as well as to achieve sanitation in communities in  Africa and Latin America. This project goes beyond mere investment in managing water resources; it also gets the communities involved by offering them training for proper water management, as well as technical and technological assistance.

These are a few of the projects:

  • Maji Ni Uhai, Tanzania, Africa (2008): building water and sanitation infrastructure for the country’s communities.
  • 35 desalination plants around the world, including the Ghubrah plant in Oman and the Al Zawra plant in Ajman.
  • In 2021, Cadagua, along with MIT, embarked on an ambitious technological project to generate nutrient-rich irrigation water from contaminated and saline waters in our aquifers. 

Ferrovial uses a specific methodology to analyze the market risks and opportunities related to water and to calculate and report the water footprint of its projects. This methodology is based on the indices of  The Water Footprint Assessment Manual (WFM), the Global Water Tool (GWT), and GRI-G4. These account for aspects such as the country’s water stress, the impact on water resources, the impact on vegetation management, quality, and access to water. 

Fun facts about water

  • Seawater is salty because it has a high concentration of mineral salts.
  • Water meant for human consumption contains minerals and different ions, such as chlorides, nitrates, calcium, and magnesium. 
  • Generally speaking, water freezes at 32ºF and evaporates at 212ºF, but this may vary depending on other compositional and environmental factors. 

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