Colorado School of Mines tapped to fix urban water problems

5:55 PM, Jul 21, 2011   |    comments
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"We focus on water," Dr. John McCray, director of Environmental Science Engineering Division at CSM, said.

The National Science Foundation is funding a five-year, $18.5 million grant to create an Engineering Research Center through Stanford, University of California - Berkeley, New Mexico State, and CSM. Each school will collaborate on projects to address the future of urban water issues.

"Our current urban water infrastructure was developed in the 1940s," McCray said. "Our purpose here is to essentially reinvent America's Urban Water Infrastructure. Or, at least conduct research in education that will help us get there in the future."

The projects won't necessarily focus on the quality of water, but rather on the process of producing useable water.

"It's more about in the long run, are we doing this in a sustainable manner?" McCray said. "Are we doing it in an energy efficient manner? Can we continue to do things now the way we've done in the past."

Dr. Tzahi Cath is overseeing a project on campus to decentralize waste water treatment. Currently, he has a portable filtering unit cleaning 7,000 gallons a day of wastewater produced by student housing. He says the result is water good enough to drink.

"Here you can treat water on site, reuse it on site. You save a lot of energy. You save a lot of infrastructure of pipelines," Cath said. "This is a system that you can bring on a truck, put it in any small neighborhood, connect to power, connect to the sewer system and it's a plug and play."

The four colleges and universities will work together along with partners from industry to developed usable technology over the next five years.

The Colorado Higher Education Competitive Research Authority is also contributing $400,000 a year to CSM to aid in the project as well.

"So, one of the goals of the [Engineering Research Center] would be eventually for water leaving urban areas to be cleaner than water entering urban areas," McCray said.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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