What sort of efforts are going into improving water quality?

February 14, 2014

In an effort to encourage water quality improvements all across the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a number of grants that will go to research institutions studying ways to manage harmful water pollution. Specifically, the research will focus on nutrient pollution, which occurs when excess nitrogen and phosphorus runoff caused buy industrial activities enters streams and rives.

"These grants will go towards research to help us better manage nutrients and better protect our precious water resources from the dangers of nutrient pollution, especially in a changing climate," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a press release.

Nutrient pollution has numerous negative effects. It can reduce the level of oxygen in certain bodies of water, making it difficult, if not impossible, for life to survive there. It can also lead to higher toxin levels.

Four research institutions received these grants, according to the press release. The Pennsylvania State University Center for Integrated Multi-scale Nutrient Pollution Solutions will use the funds to work on nutrient pollution in Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake basin. The University of South Florida Center for Reinventing Aging Infrastructure for Nutrient Management will study coastal areas like Tampa Bay, with a focus on aging wastewater treatment systems.

The Colorado State University Center for Comprehensive, Optimal and Effective Abatement of Nutrients will investigate the links between the "physical, biological, legal, social and economic aspects" of U.S. nutrient management. Finally, the Water Environment Research Foundation at the National Center for Resource Recovery and Nutrient Management in Alexandria, Virginia will focus on reducing nutrient pollution through resource recovery.

Startup develops new water cleaning technology

While the EPA is aggressively funding institutions who will teach us more about the problem of water pollution, one startup is working on an affordable way to clean up industrial wastewater. According to an article on GigaOm, the Vancouver-based company, Axine Water Technologies, has created a module-based system that uses electrified cells to oxidize any particles in the water that passes through. The only byproduct is hydrogen.

Axine claims that because the device does not use chemicals, it will be significantly cheaper than other options on the market.

Of course, it will take time for pilot models to be implemented—Axine's goal is sometime next year. However, this serves as an example of the many small companies that are taking advantage of new programs to create better filters.

Another article on GigaOm highlights the activities of Imagine H2O, a nonprofit based in San Francisco. This organization seeks to spur new water-related innovations by offering cash prizes and helping to set up pilot programs for new devices. 

"Water historically hasn't fit the traditional venture capital model," Scott Bryan, chief operating officer of Imagine H2O, told the news source. "That said, you are seeing more activities from corporations acting as strategic investors and family offices."

Consultants needed to support implementation of new tactics

Between all of the research and new technology that is being developed, it can be difficult for stakeholders to navigate this information and develop comprehensive solutions to groundwater contamination. But by working with environmental consultants, they can respond to pollution effectively and prepare for future incidents.