SAN ANTONIO –- The contraption looks like something aboard a space shuttle, complete with PVC pipes, solar arrays and a wind turbine. And in the end, the high-tech device yields one of nature’s simplest creations: water.
The process is called electrocoagulation, a term that could become familiar with those living in drought-stricken regions.
“I would say this is the future water technology; a way to clean the water,” said Luis Beltran of Elequa, the company marketing the process.
With the help of students from UTSA's Sustainable Energy Program, the water recycling demonstration captured the eye of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as he passed by.
The mayor, along with other city and state leaders, had just finished attending a water forum, where topics of handling population growth and water consumption topped the list.
Castro said, “We want to have enough water, so that there’s never any question about the quality of life in San Antonio.”
Ninety percent of our drinking water is supplied by the Edwards Aquifer, a natural resource that, like fossil fuels, can get quite scarce. But unlike oil dependency, you just can’t stop using water.
Water reuse and manufacturing may be the model for the future.
Councilman Reed Williams told the panel of experts that SAWS and other regional water companies need to place more emphasis on creating water rather than buying water from other sources. He said it's the best way to keep water affordable for most citizens.
“Brackish water projects make the most sense. They’ve got some suspended solids in them you just can’t drink, but they’re pretty easy to get them out,” Williams said.
And that fits nicely with what Elequa was doing outside the forum, showing curious visitors some examples of how their machine can take laundry detergent out of suspension in a glass of water.
“There are no chemicals. This uses just a current and a reactor,” said Beltran, as he swirled the substance and dumped it through a paper napkin filter.
The jar below filled with clear water -- water that was used not just once, but twice.