There’s a growing problem facing Americans. An estimated 44 million Americans lack adequate water systems with many facing violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Add to this the scarcity of water that’s become caused by droughts across the nation.
California is one of many states where industrial use of the water in aquifers or industrial drilled wells has created problems for the local homeowners relying on their own wells for household water. Even with snow and rain helping boost some reservoirs, supply has to keep up with demand, and that’s not happening.
To get ahead of these issues, water treatment facilities and researchers keep working on finding innovative ways to improve water treatment processes. The more water that gets reused over and over, the less demand there is for the water in lakes, rivers, aquifers, and reservoirs. Water treatment needs to be efficient, affordable, and precise, and that’s where the future is leading us. Check out some of the most recent innovations.
Technologies and Advancements That Are Driving Improvements in Water Treatment
L’Oreal announced that 100% of the water used in its industrial plants will be recycled. That’s a start. But, science and research are equally important in changing the future of water treatment and reuse.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is a great way to optimize water treatment processes to save energy and constantly monitor for higher levels of contaminants. If pumps need to be adjusted or things like chlorine need to be increased to ensure the water is clean enough, AI makes it happen.
This technology can track and adjust flow rates through filtration. AI can also predict adsorption processes all day and night, which removes the risk of human error in the different water treatment steps.
- Cellulose Fibers
Purifying water using cellulose powder is one option that’s being studied. Tiny particles of cellulose capture pollutants. So far, studies have found that the pollutants are removed at an 80% removal rate. There is room for improvement, but it’s a start.
- Cleaning-in-Place Filters
Reverse osmosis cartridges have been used in plants and homes across the country to help clean water. Once a cartridge has been used up, it has to be disposed of. In some plants, there can be thousands of reverse osmosis cartridge filters, so that’s a lot of trash generation.
A company in Canada came up with a chemical cleaner that cleans cartridge filters so that they can be used again and again. It reduces plastic pollution, lowers plant costs by eliminating the need for downtime while filter cartridges are changed, and lowers the costs of new filters.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have been looking at the use of electricity to shock water clean, similar to the methods used to pasteurize foods. Low-level electric pulses are introduced to contaminated water to help remove pathogens and other contaminants without the need for chemicals. The electric pulses are introduced to a membrane that kills bacteria faster than traditional water treatment processes.
- Membrane Filtration
Membrane filtration helps clean water quickly and effectively, and reverse osmosis is one type of membrane filtration that’s seeing improvements. Closed-Circuit Reverse Osmosis (CCRO), Forward Osmosis (FO), Membrane Distillation (MD), and Osmotically Assisted Reverse Osmosis are each worth a closer look.
- CCRO – Water is recirculated at low pressure, which cuts energy use and requires less membrane filtration materials.
- FO – Water moves through a semipermeable membrane using osmotic pressure.
- MD – Water moves through a hydrophobic membrane to separate into two forms – liquid and vapor.
- OARO – This form of reverse osmosis draws the water from brine, making it an ideal choice for turning ocean water into drinking water.
Membrane filtration can be costly and use a lot of energy. That’s where the company Elateq started when doing its research. Elated’s experts developed a one-step filtration system that uses 90% less energy by using a carbon material and low levels of electricity to clean contaminants like heavy metals, pathogens, and chemicals from water. The company’s patented filtration system is being tested in PepsiCo.
- Microbial Biofilm
The use of microbial biofilm is being studied to find ways to clean water without the use of chemicals. Metabolic Network Reactor (MNR) technology taps into the way aquatic plants clean water and establishes a microbial microfilm that mimics how plants’ roots clean the water. The “roots” draw in the contaminants, leaving the clean water behind.
Travelers going through Vermont may have encountered the wastewater treatment plant at the Sharon rest stop. That entire restroom facility uses plants to clean the wastewater from the bathrooms. The plants grow on the wastewater and the cleaned water returns to the toilets for reuse. Microbial biofilm follows the same idea of using the plants’ roots to remove bacteria and other contaminants.
Nanoparticles are gaining increased interest when it comes to cleaning PFAs from wastewater. While PFAs are designed to avoid reactions with high temperatures and many chemicals, they’re very hard to clean from wastewater. But, scientists have seen success in removing PFAs with the use of engineered nanoparticles. The nanoparticles are coated with sorbents and draw PFAs to them like magnets.
- Reusable PFA Filters
Forever chemicals and PFAs have become a concern in the U.S. Short-term PFAs can be toxic, so their removal from drinking water is important. Filters to remove the PFAs are needed, but the cost to continually replace filters is a concern. Plus, the incineration of the filtration materials that captured the PFAs would just release those PFAs back into the environment.
A team of scientists came up with a bead that filters PFAs, but it can be washed clean for reuse. Filling a cartridge filter with these beads presents the option for a filter that can be used multiple times without decreasing its effectiveness.
- Solar (UV) Water Disinfection
Most people who grew up on city water know the smell and taste of the chlorine that’s used to purify water. Times are changing and solar water disinfection is trending. Instead of relying on chemicals, UV light is used to disinfect the water. Some plants pair lower levels of chemicals with UV light that helps the chemicals break down quickly leaving nothing but clean, odor-free water.
- Water Recycling
Reusing water is going to be the way of the future. Wastewater treatment plants should look at the benefits of establishing a plant that takes wastewater, cleans it, forwards it to a water treatment plant, and purifies it for household use.
Partner With an Expert to Find Innovations That Fit Your Needs
Lakeside Equipment is nearing 100 years of helping make water clean and safe for people. We’ve been experts in water treatment and wastewater treatment facilities since 1928. Our experts work with you to figure out clean water solutions that match your budget and facility size. Reach us online to find out how you can take steps to embrace water treatment innovation.