- New technologies are helping to provide drinking water around the world.
- Minnesota officials recently purchased a machine to remove hazardous substances called PFAS.
- Experts say that by 2050, six billion people will suffer from a shortage of drinking water due to climate change.
Clean water is scarce in many parts of the world, but new technologies could help.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently purchased machines to remove concentrations of hazardous substances known as PFAS. The high-tech system works by injecting outside air into contaminated water, turning the PFAS into foam that can be separated from the water. It is one of a growing number of devices that help make water safer.
“Less than one percent of the Earth’s surface is actually fresh water,” Prakash Govindanco-founder of Degraded, a company that makes water purification technology, told Lifewire in an email interview. “It’s a very limited resource, and water stress is the first sign of climate change.”
Water, water, everywhere
Using the machine in Minnesota, PFAS levels are significantly reduced as the foam is removed and the water is returned to the environment. The PFAS concentrate is then routed to another unit, a second machine where the carbon-fluorine bonds (the backbone of PFAS chemicals) are broken by electrochemical oxidation.
“This pilot project marks the start of a new era for PFAS cleanup in Minnesota,” MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler said in a statement. Press release. “This study will help us address PFAS contamination at the source and develop long-term cleaner water solutions, ensuring safe drinking water for Minnesotans. We hope to eventually use this technology across the country. ‘State, including in Greater Minnesota, where PFAS is a growing concern.’
Not a drop to lose
The need for technology like the one used in Minnesota is great, experts say. By 2050, six billion people will suffer from a shortage of drinking water due to climate change. 85% of them live in low- and middle-income countries, noted Neil Grimmerpresident of the brand of a renewable drinking water company SOURCE Worldwide, in an email interview with Lifewire. He said part of the problem is that water technology hasn’t changed much since Roman times.
“This outdated system of pumps, treatment plants and miles of pipes often doesn’t reach remote places and is not economically viable for poor countries and communities,” Grimmer said. “So we need innovation. We need new thinking, and if we solve the problem in the countries where the challenges are greatest, we can unlock clean water for the rest of the world.”
Recent clean water innovations include micro-irrigation technologies that do not need electricity or filtration and can save massive amounts of water used in agriculture. Some companies are using AI to identify and fix drinking water leaks in real time, and researchers are working on technology that can more effectively filter water and even detect contaminants.
Gradiant offers membrane technologies, used to separate water from contaminating particles based on their size and charge, have evolved over the past few years and are now “one of the most important water purification technologies “, said Govindan. Other approaches, including Gradiant carrier gas extraction, which mimics the natural cycle of rain, ion exchange and free radical oxidation, ‘play a major role’ in water treatment industrial waste.
Ginger Rothrocksenior director of HG Ventures, a company that funds sustainability entrepreneurs, said in an email that new processes for capturing contaminants include capture media (powders that specifically trap contamination) or electric fields that attract and deposit heavy metals. For example, a company in which HGV invests, Electramet, uses electricity to extract metals from a waste stream, much like a Brita filter.
“This is particularly important for regulated metals like copper and chromium, which have known effects on human health,” Rothrock added.
Data could also be an important way to create clean water. The association charity water introduced a new type of water sensor that monitors water projects in remote locations across Africa and Asia. The device can remotely monitor water usage and the health of hand pumps in real time using an IoT-based sensor. The sensor costs less than $250 and connects to local telecommunications companies around the world.
“The developing world often faces the biggest water problems, although even in the United States we find things like arsenic and Forever Chemicals in our water supply, and [there have been] droughts in many states,” Riggs EckelberryCEO of OriginClear, a water technology company, said in an email. “Simply put, we need to clean, recycle and protect our water supply wherever we can.”
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