Environmental engineering helps improve people’s way of life and the world as a whole. Essentially, it improves processes in the environment that are very fundamental to life. One area of focus is advanced water treatment processes, which help streamline how water is obtained and used. The planet is made up of 71 percent water, but what does it consist of, and why does it matter?
The purpose of advanced water treatment
Water makes the world go round and is a critical part of life as we know it. Without water, very little could survive. Water helps all living things grow and survive in their natural environments. From serving up a pitcher of water at a restaurant to watering crops on a massive farm, water is used constantly. However, not all areas of the world are abundant in clean water. Some places even face droughts. All people need access to clean water in order to survive. Dirty water can kill plants, animals and make people very sick.
People in this field determine the best water treatments for safe water. They also establish best processes for handling waste water. Without this role, people would have a hard time extracting and using water like they do today. While people can come from a variety of backgrounds in this field, many have a base in environmental or mechanical engineering. They are proficient in math and science, two subjects significant for water treatment application. Environmental engineers directly help investigate current processes, find flaws and improve the system as a whole.
The processes behind advanced water treatment
There are several processes that make up advanced water treatment. Together, these processes make water a useful, abundant commodity. What are they?
- Reverse osmosis: Reverse osmosis involves taking water from the ground and putting it through a process that removes all of the water’s minerals and deionizes it so that it is safe for people to drink. Without this critical process, people would not be able to extract the harmful materials found in natural water and could become sick or die as a result. This process is used in desalinization, which is when ocean water is turned into clean, fresh water. Reverse osmosis helps remove the salt from ocean water leaving behind clean water. The world is running out of fresh and natural resources to use, and 97 percent of the water on the planet is salt water. Reverse osmosis can also help recycle water to make it clean and safe again, and also is used in wastewater treatments.
- Membrane filtration: Membrane filtration is a streamlined process that helps create clean drinking water. This process is often used to improve food quality, as it helps separate particles from water to create other beverages such as beer, milk and juice. There are four different types of membrane filtration, including nanofiltration, ultra-filtration, reverse osmosis and microfiltration. A different type of filtration process is used for different sized particles. The particles found in salt water are the smallest, so reverse osmosis is used. However, the particles in river water might be larger, so microfiltration is used. Though water filtration is used for a variety of reasons, one is to help create beverages and dairy products in the food industry. This process helps concentrate and purify a variety of foods, from beverages such as beer and vegetable juice to dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. This process is used in several stages of food and beverage development so these products are safe to be sold and used.
- Water oxidation: Water oxidation is used to break down water into two elements- hydrogen and oxygen. The process separates the water back into its original elements so that it can be used for other things. People and other living organisms need oxygen to live, so this process can be used anywhere where oxygen is readily needed, such as filling up oxygen tanks. Given that climate change and air pollution are currently harming the environment, people are looking for other sources of fuel, one of which is hydrogen. This treatment process helps provide water and hydrogen where it’s needed to improve the environment as a whole.
What are some careers in advanced water treatment?
There are several different roles within this field that people can pursue. Like other jobs in engineering, many of these positions pay well as water treatment is vital to daily life. For instance, a Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operator had an average salary of $44,100 per year in 2014, and a Water Purification Systems Service Technician made an average of $43,718 in 2014. A few other jobs in this field include:
- Water treatment supervisor
- Water plant manager
- Water system mechanic.
Several water treatment plants continue to pop up each year, creating a high demand for jobs at these facilities. Of course, a supervisor or operator will make more than someone who has a single task to do inside the plant. So how can people get to those supervisor jobs?
Pursuing a master’s degree in environmental or mechanical engineering can open up doors to leadership positions within the environmental engineering field. These programs teach students what they need to know to advance their skill set and become knowledgeable in current environmental issues. Students interested in these issues should pursue a degree with a university that offers curriculum specific to water treatment management and advanced treatment systems.