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Using Technology to Provide Clean Water to Cities

Clean Water Technologies

How Technology Can Help Cities Avoid Another Flint Water Crisis

Article by Jane Marsh |

The green movement is influencing natural resource protection. As the global temperature rises, adverse effects limit individuals’ access to freshwater sources. In answer, ecologists are developing technologies that improve urban water supplies.

Many engineers and scientists evaluate the Flint Water Crisis while designing their purification devices. The systems assess ways to improve public health and well-being by minimizing contamination. Before individuals consider the different filtration technologies, they must examine the effects of the Flint Water Crisis.

What Is the Flint Water Crisis?

Flint River

In 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan, began noticing changes in their water supply. Before individuals experienced the differences, the city changed its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River in order to save money. Flint is a working-class community with a lower-than-average income.

The government saw the community’s health as less of a priority than more developed regions. Officials failed to monitor the new water supply’s safety, which led to adverse effects. After consuming the water, residents began feeling sick and reported rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.

Even after multiple claims, the local government continued supplying Flint with contaminated water. Residents consumed the water supply for years and some eventually developed Legionnaires’ disease. The effects killed 12 individuals and left 87 with severe illnesses.

Environmental scientists explored Flint’s challenges to create preventive technologies. Engineers and ecologists are applying the systems to protect all communities equally. There are six technologies purifying water sources to avoid a recurrence of the Flint Crisis.

AI Water Monitors

Scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to support filtration systems in the digital age. After the Flint Water Crisis, the University of Michigan and Google teamed up and created advanced purification technology. The AI system determines which of Flint’s 55,000 houses have lead pipes.

The technology is 97% accurate at preventing lead poisoning. Switching the water supply and replacing lead pipes can effectively protect Flint’s citizens from adverse health effects. The AI system explores the residual effects of the contaminated water source on residents’ lines.

The Flint Action and Sustainability Team (FAST) received $100 million from the government to apply the technology and replace lead-containing pipes. When corporations like Google advocate for underserved communities and advance AI technology, the government understands the severity of the ecological issue.

Other scientists are developing systems to detect and remove bacteria, further protecting residents.

Bacteria Detection System

Scientists are using membrane concentration technologies to identify specific pathogens and contaminants in water sources. Professionals sample water supplies using hollow-fiber and ultra-filtration methods. Individuals may identify bacteria and viruses in the samples using the detection technology. They can also use the system to identify and remove harsh bacteria from local supplies.

Sampling professionals may use detection technology to locate Escherichia coli (E. coli) in water sources. This bacteria may cause mass illnesses which cause cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Another bacterium the technology can detect to increase health and safety is heterotrophic bacteria. Heterotrophic bacteria are less harmful than E. coli. Scientists assess heterotrophic bacteria levels to identify the potential for other contaminants to reproduce.

Environmental engineers create purification systems using reverse osmosis to remove bacteria and other impurities from water sources.

Reverse Osmosis

Filtration professionals use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water, wastewater, and other sources into drinkable resources. The technology uses a semipermeable membrane to capture and store solutes. Reverse osmosis systems effectively purify water sources and protect individuals’ health.

The technology can also increase a community’s access to safe drinking water. In areas like Flint, where freshwater sources carry contaminants, individuals can use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water into a potable resource. Freshwater only makes up about 1% of Earth’s water supply.

The remaining water resides in the oceans and icecaps. Using the advanced technology helps prevent adverse health effects and communities’ reliance on contaminated water sources. Scientists are also utilizing ultraviolet (UV) rays to avoid another Flint Water Crisis.

UV Water Treatment

Purification professionals are using the germicidal properties of ultraviolet (UV) light to kill microorganisms. The wavelengths ranging from 200 to 300 nanometers eliminate nearly all contaminants. UV light eliminates a microorganism’s ability to reproduce, protecting the current and future water supply.

Professionals could utilize UV filtration technology at water treatment plants to prevent mass contamination. Flint’s plant can install a light system and protect its citizens from adverse health effects. Many green city developers are utilizing such purification technologies to support sustainable systems.

Supporting Green Cities With Purification Technology

Green cities support modern urbanization while minimizing adverse ecological effects. Developers are implementing water purification technologies to eliminate surface-level pollution. Some professionals are even utilizing the systems to convert contaminated water into energy.

Generating power from wastewater decreases a community’s reliance on fossil fuels. The technologies can lower surface and atmospheric degradation over time. Regions may also pair their AI filtration technology with smart city systems to safeguard a community’s health and well-being.

Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

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Desalination- Clean Water for a Thirsty World

Clean Water from the Sea |

Carlsbad, California desalination plant |

The Sorek desalination plant in Tel Aviv, Israel |

The two desalination plants featured in this article; one in Carlsbad (north coastal San Diego county), California, and one in Tel Aviv, Israel, represent two of the pioneering large-scale desalination plants in the world using reverse osmosis.

Desalination represents a significant strategy among the various solutions to the world water crisis; along with wastewater treatment/ treated wastewater infrastructure, and mass distribution of water filters to the poor, especially in 3rd world countries (and low socioeconomic areas in general). Desalination is a current technology that helps provide vital clean water to people globally. According to statistics from Our World in Data:

Carlsbad and Tel Aviv Desal. Plants

The desalination plant in Tel Aviv provides 20% of the clean water the people in the entire country of Israel use; and the Carlsbad desalination plant provides 10% of the clean water San Diego county residents use. Although Carlsbad and Tel Aviv don’t represent the struggles with water scarcity in the third world specifically, the desal. plants in those locations do represent solutions to the growing need for clean water in the world as a whole. Both plants use a technology called reverse osmosis as part of the process of water purification. Here are a few articles about the desalination plants in Carlsbad and Tel Aviv, and desalination in general:

The largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere [as of the date in this article] is open in Carlsbad, San Diego, heralding what may be a new era in U.S. water use.

Global desalination output has tripled since 2000: 16,000 [large and small-scale] desalination plants are up and running around the world [now, a few years after this article was originally published, it’s over 20,000], and the pace of construction is expected to increase while the technology continues to improve. Desalination is ripe for technological improvement. A combination of sensor-driven optimization and automation, energy-efficient technology that is said to nearly halve energy consumptionplus new types of membranes, could eventually allow for desalination plants that are half the size and use commensurately less energy. Among other benefits, small, mobile desalination units could be used in agricultural regions hundreds of miles away from the ocean, where demand for water is great and growing. Already, some 700 million people worldwide suffer from water scarcity, but that number is expected to swell to 1.8 billion in just 10 years. Some countries, like Israel, already rely heavily on desalination; more will follow suit.

10 miles south of Tel Aviv, Israel, a vast new industrial facility hums around the clock. [The Sorek desalination plant in Tel Aviv] provides 20% of the water consumed by the country’s households. Thanks to a series of engineering and materials advances, however, it produces clean water from the sea cheaply and at a scale never before achieved, demonstrating that seawater desalination can cost-effectively provide a substantial portion of a nation’s water supply.

Desal. Plants Globally

The desalination plant in Carlsbad served as a pioneering project for large-scale desalination projects in the United States, of which there are now dozens, in addition to hundreds of smaller desalination projects in the United States. In the entire world there are over 120 countries with desalination plants, the largest of which are in Saudi Arabia, with a comparatively large-scale plant in the United Arab Emirates. The Ras Al Khair desalination plant in Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest desalination plant.

There are over 20,000 desalination plants under development or fully operational worldwide, with over half of the major global desalination plants located in the Middle East. The Carlsbad desalination plant now has company, especially with a couple of other desalination plants in California, in the industry sector of large-scale municipal desalination plants in the United States, as depicted in the following global map of major desalination plants–