2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Portable Water Filtration System

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Sondra Miller


Access to potable water has become increasingly difficult due to climate change, infrastructure failures, and urbanization. There are sustainable materials within our natural environment well suited for drinking water treatment. Our goal was to design a portable water filtration column that could be implemented under emergency conditions to provide communities with a resource for treating unsafe drinking water. We chose a scenario that involved a response to the potential contamination of rivers by mine tailings. Our system efficiently reduced turbidity, iron, color, and odor while raising pH, with an effluent water discharge rate of 10 gallons per hour. Previous studies have demonstrated improvements in these parameters by testing biofiltration systems and wastewater treatment plants, the results of which were not compared to meet drinking water standards. Larger particle media (anthracite and lightweight expanded clay aggregate) strategically placed at the system’s influent mitigates clogging, while finer media (sand and granular activated carbon) at the system’s effluent facilitates particulate removal to 250 microns. A fine mesh (number 200) serves as a polishing step, further removing particulate to 74 microns from the resulting effluent. Anthracite and granular activated carbon effectively reduce odor and color, while lightweight expanded clay aggregate absorb microbial contaminants and effluent pH. Efforts have been made to incorporate sustainable materials, enabling composting of all filter media. Further project expansion may include implementing backwash systems for ease of maintenance and consideration given to improving additional water quality parameters.

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