New developments in water filtration could have a big impact on the world’s water supply. Researchers in Australia and the Netherlands have, separately, developed new filtration systems that work more efficiently and can filter out the smallest pollutants, respectively.

Water Filtration

In Australia, researchers at the Melbourne School of Engineering, in conjunction with CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) have developed new membranes to supply clean water for desalination and water purification. The membranes in question are resistant to chlorine, which is often used to prevent biological buildup in the filtration process, but has to be removed later. The new membranes remove steps in the process, making it cheaper and faster to filter water.

In the Netherlands, Joris de Grooth, for his doctoral research at the University of Twente, developed a membrane that can remove micropollutants. Micropollutants include things like medicine, hormones, and pesticides which get into water systems but, until now, have been difficult if not impossible to remove. Existing systems were not designed with such pollutants in mind, but de Grooth’s membrane can handle them. It does this by running water through straws only 5 nanometers across, which are subsequently covered with coatings of 5 millimeter thick polymer.

Projects like this are of increasing importance as clean water becomes harder to come by. Various pollutants can make water undrinkable by humans, and have negative impacts on the larger environment. Even helpful things, such as medicine, can contaminate water supplies. Recent concerns about California’s water supply has helped to drive home these dangers. That an agricultural giant in the United States faces a serious water shortage will hopefully help motivate people to take such issues more seriously. While the Earth has a lot of water, we can’t afford to just use it however we want, but have to approach water use from a more thoughtful, conservationist approach. After all, it’s one resource we absolutely cannot live without.