Water dripping out of a faucet.

Every Drop Counts

CSE engineers and scientists tackle water quality threats on multiple fronts

Water touches everything—not just our physical environment, but also our cultural and spiritual worlds.

We use it but never destroy it. We drink it and bathe in it. We wash cars and irrigate crops. Our factories consume and expel it. Rivers carry away our waste. But then we—and nature—clean it, and the people downstream use it again. The thin film of water enveloping our planet is constantly recycled, since time immemorial.

But as human population has grown and uses of water have grown, so too has the demand for clean water.

According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, the worldwide demand for water has been growing about 1 percent a year because of increasing population, economic development, and changing consumption patterns. Industrial and domestic use will grow fastest, though agriculture will remain the biggest user.

As global weather patterns intensify—wet regions becoming wetter and dry regions drier—half of the world’s population will live in areas of water scarcity that lasts at least one month each year.

To make sure we have clean water when and where we need it, researchers in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering are studying water issues—tracking down pollutants, investigating aquatic ecosystems, and inventing new ways to clean water and protect this natural resource. 

Here are five CSE faculty and their research projects:

  • Distinguished McKnight University Professor Bill Arnold uncovered the dangers of triclosan and led to its nationwide ban; read this online story "Lurking hazards of a germ."
  • Researchers Cara Santelli, Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, and Amy Myrbo are partnering with tribal communities to better understand manoomin; read "Wild rice and cultural collaboration."

  • McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Marc Hillmyer is making better plastics; read "Promising polymers."