Surface water filtration using granular media and membranes: A review

The research article 'Surface water filtration using granular media and membranes: A review' has been published in Elsevier journal Science of The Total Environment.


Significant growth of the human population is expected in the future. Hence, the pressure on the already scarce natural water resources is continuously increasing. This work is an overview of membrane and filtration methods for the removal of pollutants such as bacteria, viruses and heavy metals from surface water.

Microfiltration/Ultrafiltration (MF/UF) can be highly effective in eliminating bacteria and/or act as pre-treatment before Nanofiltration/Reverse Osmosis (NF/RO) to reduce the possibility of fouling. However, MF/UF membranes are produced through relatively intensive procedures. Moreover, they can be modified with chemical additives to improve their performance. Therefore, MF/UF applicability in less developed countries can be limited. NF shows high removal capability of certain contaminants (e.g. pharmaceutically active compounds and ionic compounds). RO is necessary for desalination purposes in areas where sea water is used for drinking/sanitation. Nevertheless, NF/RO systems require pre-treatment of the influent, increased electrical supply and high level of technical expertise. Thus, they are often a highly costly addition for countries under development.

Slow Sand Filtration (SSF) is a simple and easy-to-operate process for the retention of solids, microorganisms and heavy metals; land use is a limiting factor, though. Rapid Sand Filtration (RSF) is an alternative responding to the need for optimized land use. However, it requires prior and post treatment stages to prevent fouling. Especially after coating with metal-based additives, sand filtration can constitute an efficient and sustainable treatment option for developing countries.

Granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorbs organic compounds that were not filtered in previous treatment stages. It can be used in conjunction with other methods (e.g. MF and SSF) to face pollution that results from potentially outdated water network (especially in less developed areas) and, hence, produce water of acceptable drinking quality. Future research can focus on the potential of GAC production from alternative sources (e.g. municipal waste).

Given the high production/operation/maintenance cost of the NF/RO systems, more cost-effective but equally effective alternatives can be implemented: e.g. (electro)coagulation/flocculation followed by MF/UF, SSF before/after MF/UF, MF/UF before GAC.

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