Drinking Water Quality: Contaminants, Health Risks, and Water Purification

Project: Research and measure contaminants in drinking water sources, and choose an effective device for removal

When you turn on the faucet at home, use a drinking fountain, or buy bottled water, you expect the water to be free of harmful chemical or microbial contaminants. But recent water quality disasters such as the Flint Water crisis indicate that even in the 21st century, drinking water sources may not always meet water quality standards if not engineered properly from source to user. Our goals in this section are to gain a fundamental understanding of drinking water quality issues including contaminants of concern, their detection and health risks, and effective engineering approaches for removing them from water. The section is divided among lectures and field and laboratory activities. First, you will pick a contaminant of interest, quantify its health risks, and learn simple field-test methods for its detection and quantification. Second, you will collect a water sample from a source of your choosing (e.g., tap water, river water, or lake water), and measure the concentration of the contaminant. Finally, you will select an appropriate point of use device for removing the contaminant and demonstrate its effectiveness.