University of British Columbia Develops New Water Filtration System

African children reach their hands into clean drinking water that's coming from a hose.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the U.S., clean water is so plentiful and accessible that we tend to take it for granted. We often forget that there are some parts of the world where water is hard to come by. Untreated water sources are often polluted or otherwise contain dangerous bacteria. Without access to clean drinking water, the health and wellbeing of people living in remote or poor areas is significantly compromised.

There are a number of purification systems out there, so it’s not the ability to purify water that’s the problem–it’s the resources needed to do so. Filtration systems are generally expensive and require quite a bit of maintenance and upkeep, but a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new system which is both cheap and requires little effort to maintain.

The filtration process starts with straining water through a film, which filters out most pollutants and debris. Afterward, the water is then run through a biofilm of beneficial bacteria that break down any remaining toxins. This simple two-step system removes up to 99.99% of contaminants.

This is the first system that uses gravity to remove contaminants from water, which makes it easier to operate since complex mechanical processes aren’t involved. Additionally, there are only a few valves that need to be operated each day in order to ensure the proper functioning of the system.

Researchers plan to test the new system in remote areas in Canada first. But since the project was funded in part by the Canadian-Indian organization IC-IMPACTS, it’s likely that the system will be tested in India as well.

If proven to be successful, the system can be dispersed to poor and rural areas throughout the world. It’s pretty exciting to know that a significant portion of the world could have access to safe drinking water soon.

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