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5 Innovative Solutions to Water Pollution: Technology to the Rescue?

Written by: James Smith

Updated: April 25, 2023

Sewage run-off into water

Water pollution is a major environmental issue that affects millions of people around the world.

From industrial waste to agricultural runoff, water pollution poses a threat to both human health and the health of the planet.

However, there are new and innovative solutions being developed that you might not be aware of. We've done a deep dig into the new ways we're fighting water pollution in 2023.


5. Natural Water Filtration Systems

Let's face it, nature, through evolution is the most efficient filtration device in the world and one of the most promising solutions to water pollution is natural water filtration systems. 

A natural water filtration system is basically a wetland ecosystem

By incorporating natural materials like sand, gravel, microbes and vegetation to filter out pollutants from water, a wetland is an extremely effective water filtration device.

We are now constructing wetland areas of our own to treat wastewater. These engineered water systems mimic natural wetland habitats and can remove large amounts of pollutants from water over time.

A successful implementation of a manufactured wetland can be found in Emmitsburg in Maryland. Over a two year period, it was found to naturally remove 84% of suspended solids in the water. At a total cost of just $89,000, its construction and design was significantly cheaper than that of a water treatment plant.


4. Bioremediation Techniques

Bioremediation is another innovative approach to water pollution that involves using natural organisms to break down pollutants. It uses microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and plants to remove pollutants from water.

These microorganisms break down and metabolize pollutants, transforming them into less harmful substances. This makes bioremediation an eco-friendly and cost-effective technique for cleaning up contaminated water.

Bioremediation can be used to treat a wide variety of pollutants, including:

  1. 1
    Petroleum products: Bioremediation is commonly used to clean up oil spills. Bacteria can break down hydrocarbons in oil into less harmful substances like carbon dioxide and water. In fact, bioremediation was used to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.
  2. 2
    Heavy metals: Bioremediation can be used to treat water contaminated with heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium. Certain bacteria and plants can absorb these metals and store them in their tissues, effectively removing them from the water.
  3. 3
    Organic compounds: Bioremediation can also be used to treat water contaminated with organic compounds like pesticides and herbicides. Certain bacteria and fungi can break down these compounds into less harmful substances.

An example of bioremediation being used is in the treatment of agricultural runoff. The use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture can contaminate water sources, posing a threat to human health and the environment.

Bioremediation can be used to treat contaminated water, removing pollutants and making it safe for use.

Another example of bioremediation being used is in the treatment of industrial wastewater. Industrial processes can generate wastewater that contains high levels of pollutants like heavy metals and organic compounds.

Bioremediation can be used to treat this wastewater, removing pollutants and making it safe for discharge into waterways.


3. Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is another promising solution to water pollution, with the potential to remove pollutants at the molecular level.

This is a rapidly growing field that involves the manipulation of materials on the nanoscale (between 1 and 100 nanometers) to create new materials and devices with unique properties.

Fun Facts

A nanometer is just one billionth of a meter!

A sheet of paper is around 100,000 nanometers thick.

One inch is around 25,400,000 nanometers long. Source

A promising application of nanotechnology is in the field of water pollution control, where researchers are developing new and innovative ways to remove pollutants from water using nanomaterials.

Here are some examples of how nanotechnology is being used to combat water pollution:


Nanoscale Iron Particles

Nanoscale iron particles have been found to be effective in removing a wide range of pollutants from water, including arsenic, chromium, and lead. 

These particles work by binding to the pollutants and either adsorbing them onto their surface or reducing them to less harmful forms.

A review study published in 2021 found that nanoscale iron particles were found to show a lot of promise when removing heavy metal contaminants from water.


Nanofiltration Membranes

Nanofiltration is a type of water treatment that uses a membrane with nanoscale pores to filter out contaminants from water.

These membranes are made from nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide, which have unique properties that make them highly effective at removing pollutants.

A study published in 2023 found that a graphene oxide-based nanofiltration membrane was effective in removing heavy metals from water.


Nanobubbles

Nanobubbles are tiny bubbles of gas that are less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Researchers are exploring the use of nanobubbles in water treatment as a way to remove pollutants. Nanobubbles have been found to be highly effective in removing pollutants like pharmaceuticals and pesticides from water.

A study published in 2022 found that nanobubbles could remove persistent organic pollutants from wastewater with a removal efficacy of above 60%.


Nanostructured Adsorbents

Nanostructured adsorbents are materials that are engineered at the nanoscale to have a large surface area and high adsorption capacity (adsorption is basically a process where particles are bonded to a new surface). These materials can be used to remove pollutants from water by adsorbing them onto their surface.

Studies have shown that some nanostructured adsorbents are effective in removing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from water.


2. Electrocoagulation

Electrocoagulation is a water treatment technique that uses electrical charges to remove pollutants from water.

It works by passing an electrical current through water, causing metal ions to form and attract pollutants, which then coagulate into larger solid particles which can be removed from the water.

This technique can be used to treat a variety of pollutants, including bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals.

Electrocoagulation is being used to treat polluted water in a number of notable ways:


Industrial Wastewater Treatment

Electrocoagulation is an effective technique for treating industrial wastewater, which can be highly contaminated with heavy metals, oils, and other pollutants. It is a particularly useful technique for treating wastewater from the mining, oil and gas, and food processing industries.

A study published in 2018 found that electrocoagulation was effective in removing heavy metals from wastewater.


Treatment of Agricultural Runoff

Agricultural runoff can be a significant source of water pollution, as it can contain high levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause harmful algal blooms in lakes and rivers.

Electrocoagulation has been found to be an effective technique for treating agricultural runoff, as it can target the problematic chemicals. 

A study has shown that electrocoagulation can remove phosphates from water with efficiencies of between 20-100%.


Removal of Microplastics

Microplastics are small plastic particles that can accumulate in water bodies and pose a risk to aquatic life. A study found that electrocoagulation was effective in removing microplastics from simulated wastewater at efficiencies of over 90%. However, it should be noted that these figures were arrived at under neutral conditions.


Treatment of Drinking Water

Electrocoagulation can also be used to treat drinking water, particularly in areas where the water is highly contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants.

As we mentioned earlier, electrocoagulation is effective in removing dangerous heavy metals from water.


1. Ozone Treatment

Ozone treatment is another innovative solution to water pollution that involves using ozone gas to oxidize and remove pollutants. Ozone (trioxygen) is a powerful inorganic molecule that can break down harmful organic compounds (like bacteria and viruses) and other pollutants in water, making it an effective technique for treating water pollution.

The process is called ozonation of the water and has been used for a long time. However, it can be problematic when used with drinking water as large amounts of ozonation can produce bromate (it converts bromide into bromate). Bromate is considered harmful and possibly carcinogenic. It is also very difficult to effectively remove from water once it's present.


About the Author James Smith

James is the chief water geek here at TheWaterGeeks.com. His mission is to empower the consumer and allow people to take control of their health. His passion for water health is contagious, hopefully unlike your tap water!


>Learn more about James and thewatergeeks.com


>View his published work on the site

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