Maximizing storm water: Researchers at UTSA trying to purify dirty water faster


SAN ANTONIO-All this recent rain has researchers at UTSA excited.

They are taking advantage of all the extra water to see how well they can decontaminate it and replenish our drinking supply. They were awarded a $42,800 grant from the San Antonio River Authority and Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance to do so.

UTSA is on land that's considered a 'recharge zone' for the aquifer that provides most of our drinking water in South Central Texas. Behind one of the parking lots sits a 'sand filter basin,' flanked by two 'storm boxes'

"Last night we collected 4 samples of water," Dr. Marcio Giacomni explains opening one of the boxes. He is an assistant professor in UTSA's Department of Civil Environmental Engineering, and part of the research team.

You'll find them around these boxes right after a storm. It's the first step of the research.

"That's what we call the first flush," he says holding up one of four bottles filled up from water directly from the parking lot. Consider it the 'before' sample, as the 'first flush' is considered the most contaminated water from whatever oil and exhaust the cars spills on the ground.

Behind the natural sand filter, is another box just like it.

"You can see that the water now is clearer,' he says holding up a bottle from the second box.

This box holds the water that's been through the sand filter basin. The rest of it is sent down stream. By comparing the results from either box these researchers can tell how effective it is. That's done back on campus in the lab, as time works against them.

"The water quality might change if it sits too long inside the bottles."

Back at the lab is where we met is where we met research assistant Travis Lung, "this is our cold storage walk in." he says opening the door.

The water is first cooled, and then tested 8 different ways to check its purity, with both the before and after samples.

""We got all kinds of tools around the lab," Lung says.

Once there's enough data, they'll analyze it. The ultimate goal is for less man made infrastructure to improve the process of making our water drinkable.

"Let nature kind of take account for filtering our water, and making it better. Putting it back into the aquifer fresher and quicker."

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By Andrew Lofholm

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