DIY water treatment system

April 26, 2013
DIY water treatment system
Dr Olfa Khelifi, University of Tunis El Manar with UNSW's Dr Stuart Khan.

(Phys.org) —A low-cost wastewater treatment system built entirely with recycled materials and parts from hardware shops will help transfer Australian expertise to classrooms in Tunisia.

Engineers from UNSW have teamed up with a visiting research fellow from Tunisia to develop a sustainable, "do-it-yourself" membrane bioreactor (MBR) – a system used to treat residential and industrial wastewater so the effluent can be safely discharged or reclaimed for irrigation.

"Agriculture is one of the most water-intensive sectors and has led to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources in Tunisia. Consequently, safe reuse of is now a necessity, not just an option," says Assistant Professor Olfa Khelifi from the University of Tunis El Manar, located in the Tunisian capital.

"In many rural areas we have small agrifood factories whose operations are very water intensive," she says. "If we could introduce a low-cost treatment technology, I think these businesses, and other industries, would be very interested in adapting these systems."

She says this would also have significant environmental benefits as it could help initiate better oversight of how wastewater is discharged.

Khelifi came to UNSW for one month with the help of a $20,000 grant from the Council for Australian-Arab Relations – an initiative run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

She has worked with Dr Stuart Khan and Dr Pierre Le-Clech from UNSW to develop the sustainable treatment system.

The UNSW researchers have considerable experience building lab-scale MBRs for research purposes, but these incorporate technical components and cost roughly A$20,000. This expense is a major obstacle for reproduction in Tunisia.

Their simplified system, which uses and inexpensive parts, comes in around $2,500 – approximately one-eighth the cost.

"This is small-scale and will be used primarily as a teaching resource, but it does work," says Khan, a senior lecturer in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "We wanted an operable system so we could accurately determine how well it was removing organic carbon from the water."

The objective is to give students the chance to work with a physical system and to teach them how to measure and assess how the system is working, he says. "We're also putting together a handbook on how to build these small teaching resources."

The system is the main component of a new wastewater management training course, based on existing Australian materials, but adapted for Tunisian students and industry professionals. The researchers hope the course can also benefit other developing countries with water security concerns.

Explore further: Water wonder

Related Stories

Water wonder

May 13, 2011

A brilliant water saving idea by UNSW engineering academics Greg Leslie and Bruce Sutton has impressed the judges on ABC TV’s New Inventors program.

Bacteria convert wastewater chemicals into toxic form

December 5, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- While traces of pharmaceutical compounds are commonly present in wastewater, interactions with bacteria during the treatment process could transform them from non-toxic to toxic forms, a new study suggests.

Direct drinking water recycling could prevent floods

April 17, 2012

The use of a more streamlined process to recycle wastewater could have saved Brisbane from severe flooding in 2011 and mitigated recent flood risks in New South Wales, a leading water expert says.

Sewage lagoons remove most—but not all—pharmaceuticals

February 14, 2013

(Phys.org)—2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which established regulations for the discharge of pollutants to waterways and supported the building of sewage treatment plants. Despite these advances, ...

Recommended for you

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.