Treating Water with Respect
DCU’s Water Institute is leading the way in raising awareness about the value of water in our lives. We drink it, wash in it, rely on it to grow crops, but just how many of us stop and take the time to consider just how important water is to us? Professor Fiona Regan, Professor in Chemistry and Director of the DCU Water Institute said: “Water is essential for life, for health, for human society, for industry. It’s so important that we figure out ways to conserve, monitor and protect water and to make sure that when we use water, we use it efficiently. “We set up the Water Institute in DCU to bring together researchers under this common theme, and since it started in November 2015 we have been really successful at bringing in funding and working on new projects, as well as creating more public awareness around the value of water.”
Projects underway at the Institute include a collaborative project in the Burrishoole catchment in Co Mayo, where researchers are busy examining the importance of ‘environmental DNA’. Joyce O’Grady is working as part of a collaborative where technology is used to monitor the environment. “Joyce is examining ‘environmental DNA’, which is DNA that gets sloughed off from living beings and it leaves a signature in the water,” said Professor Regan. “We want to use it to track the different salmon species that are at the site and see where they travel. We are working on that project with Professor Anne Parle-McDermott and Molly Williams in DCU and it’s very exciting. "Then Chloe Richards has just started a Master’s project in my lab to develop new coatings to stop objects in water such as ships, sensors and buoys being fouled, or covered in biofilm.” Chloe’s new project is examining fish scales to determine how fish live in water and keep clean. Other animals, such as crabs, are being studied to find out how they stop this fouling process also.
“My lab works with companies on their specific challenges in this area, and we have recently carried out some research with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany on how to manufacture anti-fouling materials so they can be easily applied to protect surfaces that go into water,” added Professor Regan.
“At the DCU Water Institute we have run campaigns on social media, posting facts about water usage and conservation. I think in Ireland it rains so much that we take water for granted, but we need to think more about how much it costs to treat the water so we can use it in our houses and in industry, and how important it is not to waste it.” According to Professor Regan, there are simple ways to be mindful of your water usage. “Switch off the tap when brushing your teeth and be more aware of plastics and other chemicals in products you use that can end up polluting oceans and other waterways,” she said. “Also, if you have a garden, collect rainwater and use it to water the plants rather than using the treated water from the mains. Overall, it’s about a mindset of being more aware of water and understanding that we need to be better stewards of this resource for the planet.”
The Water Institute has lots of exciting projects and research. To learn more, see https://dcuwater.ie.