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Toward Understanding Opuntia as a Natural Coagulant

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An increase in global population, environmental degradation, and water scarcity challenges necessitate the need for sustainable water treatment solutions. A staggering 17% of the world's citizens lack access to an improved water supply, and diarrheal disease kills 1.8 million people, mostly young children, each year (World Health Organization). Cultures from across the globe have used plant-based materials to clarify water for centuries. Simple, inexpensive, water treatment technologies employed at point-of-use have been shown to reduce significantly the incidence of diarrheal disease. This poster investigates Opuntia spp., a cactus species, as a potential natural coagulant.

Though Opuntia's use in water treatment has been reported anecdotally, little has been published to explain how this plant operates as a coagulant. In certain turbid water systems Opuntia spp. can reduce turbidity by 98%. Opuntia's efficacy as a coagulant will be compared to other natural coagulants as well as synthetic coagulants. Data is presented to support a likely coagulation mechanism for Opuntia spp., one that is unlike the mechanisms known thought to operate with other natural coagulants, such as Moringaoleifera. Results of extractions performed to isolate the active coagulation agent will be shared, and a possible active agent will be presented.

Keywords: Coagulant; Opuntia; point-of-use; water treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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