News & Features

Creating an Affordable Water Purifier for Oaxacans


May 12, 2017

Students from Texas and Mexico have teamed together to help find an inexpensive way to bring clean water to more households in the state of Oaxaca, where an affordable treatment technology is in great need. The collaborative effort is focused the development of a nano-enabled ceramic water filter made from local materials.

Over the past few months, environmental engineering students from The University of Texas at Austin have travelled to several communities near Oaxaca City where access to safe drinking water is limited. More than 40% of people in that area lack access to any municipal water supply.

As part of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grant, UT Austin researchers have conducted educational workshops with three partnered universities, completed household surveys, and collected samples for water quality analysis. The results from the survey and water quality indicate prevalence of diarrheal diseases, a desire to improve water quality and reduce the cost of water, and a need for education on water hygiene.

The EPA P3 Award competition is a two-phase team contest. For the first phase, interdisciplinary student teams compete for $15,000 grants as they design tangible, cutting-edge solutions to real-world problems. During Phase I, recipients use the money to research and develop their design projects during the academic year. The UT team, in partnership with Mexican academic institutes, have developed two prototypes. The designs can be easily integrated into households to provide sustained disinfection of drinking water.

On May 15-16, the “Nano-Silver and Zeolite for Ceramic Water Filters” team from UT Austin will attend the National Sustainable Design Expo, and submit a Phase I project report on their work to develop a ceramic water filter specific to the region of Oaxaca as well as a proposal for the opportunity for Phase II funding. The next phase of funding would bring a second grant of $75,000 to implement their designs and potentially bring them to the marketplace.