University of Regina environmental engineer received federal funding to develop a self-powered, portable device for water disinfection and pollutant removal.

Access to clean water is considered a universal and standard public service. However, the lack of clean drinking water in many remote and First Nations communities remains a serious problem in Canada.

The vastness of the country and the disparate locations of communities, plus the costliness of maintaining and training personnel to manage water treatment infrastructure makes setting them up a huge challenge.

Point-of-use water treatment technologies offer an attractive alternative. Centralized facilities and piping systems are not needed. The size of carry-on luggage, they are easy to transport, install, and can be operated by users without needing an on-site technical visit. The savings can be huge. But, there are drawbacks. If filters need frequent replacing, they can be costly. They require a power supply that may be unavailable in many remote sites. They often need multiple treatment processes, which can result in a complex system – which increases the possibility of things going wrong.

To address these issues, Dr. Gordon Huang, a Canada Research Chair in Energy and Environment and a University of Regina environmental engineer, has secured a federal New Frontiers in Research Fund 2022 Exploration grant to develop a self-powered, portable device for simultaneous water disinfection and pollutant removal.

This device contains an integration of multiple technologies for point-of-use drinking-water treatment. “My team and I have already conducted many studies on portable water treatment systems for removing microorganisms and heavy metals from drinking water,” says Huang. “This new project will allow us to further advance the related technologies for providing high-quality drinking water for First Nations and remote communities.”

Their water-purification system will be powered the down flow of water, so it won’t need a power supply. This system will also not require material replacement/disposal or on-site technical service, and the inlet water can be from various sources, such as rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

Environmental engineer Dr. Gordon Huang is a Canada Research Chair in Energy and Environment.
Environmental engineer Dr. Gordon Huang is a Canada Research Chair in Energy and Environment.

“Our goal is to bring enhanced drinking water quality, reduced public health issues, decreased cost for water supply, and minimized environmental footprint to remote and First Nations communities,” says Huang.

Once developed, the system will have other important uses, such as providing clean water for remote sites, supporting industrial/field deployments, and supplying drinking water under emergencies, such as during power outages or wildfires when there’s a high risk of water contamination.

About the author

Krista Baliko is the University of Regina’s research communications strategist and the editor of Discourse.