EPA Researchers Partner with WaterStep to Deliver Clean Water During Emergencies

Following a disaster like the back-to-back hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico in 2017, water systems can become flooded and unable to provide safe drinking water to communities. EPA researchers recognized the need for portable water treatment systems that can quickly and cost-effectively provide safe drinking water to affected communities following a disaster.

To address this challenge, EPA researchers partnered with WaterStep to develop a modular, mobile water treatment system known as the Water on Wheel – Emergency Mobile Drinking Water Treatment System, or the WOW cart. The partnership was developed through EPA’s cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA), a research partnership between EPA and one or more external parties, such as a university or company. EPA’s role in the partnership with WaterStep was to provide technical assistance, environmental sampling and analysis, and logistical support. Researchers also provided expertise to expand the mobile unit’s capability with drinking water treatment and disinfection research, including granular activated carbon (GAC) and UV disinfection best practices. WaterStep designed the mobile treatment cart and provided the engineering and fabrication. The result, the WOW cart, was designed and prototypes were built.

Within days of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico’s drinking water systems, WaterStep rapidly deployed 78 Mini Water Treatment Units (Mini), which are smaller versions of the WOW cart, with the help of the National Puerto Rico Leadership Council Education Fund. Each Mini includes everything needed for quick assembly and operation and can deliver safe drinking water within 30 minutes of set-up. Each of these Minis has a solar panel and a chlorine generator, and can provide up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water each day.

This EPA partnership with WaterStep helped provide clean drinking water in the aftermath of the devastating impacts from hurricanes in Puerto Rico. This technology can also be used in communities where there is any kind of water contamination. Public-private partnerships like this one bring EPA researchers and experts in academia and industry together to help communities solve real environmental challenges.

 

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