Point of use water treatment with forward osmosis for emergency relief

Ethan Butler, Andrew Silva, Kyle Horton, Zachary Rom, Malgorzata Chwatko, Arie Havasov, Jeffrey R. McCutcheon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In emergencies, access to water plays a critical role in limiting loss of life. Point of use water treatment (PoUWT) is increasingly being used to fill this need. One emerging PoUWT technology is Hydration Technology Innovations'™ (HTI's) osmotic water purification system, which produces a clean sugar-electrolyte drink from almost any water source. This drink not only hydrates users, but also relieves malnutrition and diarrheal illness, two of the most prolific killers in refugee camps and disaster relief scenarios. In this study, HTI's HydroWell™ system is independently evaluated for on contaminant removal, cost, and material availability. Bench-top testing showed that HTI's systems have superior contaminant removal, rejecting >. 88.3% of copper, lead, arsenic, and chromium at concentrations of 10. mg/L. The cost of the drink could be minimized to 0.23 USD/L by adjusting process variables. A sensitivity analysis showed significant room for cost reductions, especially if draw solutes could be locally sourced or if the system lifetime could be extended through the use of cleaning reagents or pretreatment. Further research on long-term operations and maintenance and community-technology interaction could yield more information about the efficacy of forward osmosis for this application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the National Science Foundation ( CBET 1067564 ), United Collegiate Honors Council , the University of Connecticut Summer Undergraduate Research Fund , and the University of Connecticut's School Engineering for providing funding support. A special thanks to Hydration Technology Innovations and Ed Beaudry for providing membrane, HydroWells, and information on their appropriate use. The authors would also like to thank Chris Perkins and Sneiguole Stapcinskaite at the University of Connecticut Center for Environmental Science and Engineering for providing assistance with the heavy metal analysis. Additionally, the authors would like to acknowledge Erik Anderson, Benjamin DeMasi-Sumner, Gabriella Frey, Marie Garofoli, Elise Gilcher, and Nikhil Shah for their contributions to the project. Finally the authors would like to thank Engineers without Borders, USA-UConn for their advising and support.


  • Disaster relief
  • Forward osmosis
  • Heavy metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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