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Female students collecting samples in a wooded stream

Water Quality

About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, with freshwater accounting for just 2.5 percent of that total. Just 1 percent of our freshwater is accessible, with most of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields. In essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet's water is available to fuel and feed its 7.8 billion people. And there are a number of ongoing threats to our water quality, including harmful algal blooms, microplastics, hypoxia, PFAS and lead, which impact everything from our drinking water to tourism dollars. The University of Michigan is collaborating with communities and researchers worldwide to address these critical threats, paving the way to prevent future environmental crises.

News and Impact

Western Lake Erie and an algae bloom as seen from a Landsat-8 satellite in September 2017. Image credit: NASA/USGS
Smaller summer harmful algal bloom predicted for western Lake Erie
microplastics concentration map
Ocean microplastics: First global view shows seasonal changes and sources
Glen Daigger
Wastewater treatment at one-third the size and cost
In recent years, urine recycling has been studied as a way to produce renewable fertilizers while reducing the amount of energy and chemicals needed to treat wastewater.
‘Peecycling’ payoff: Urine diversion shows multiple environmental benefits when used at city scale
Joseph Groele (right), NERS Graduate Student Research Assistant, holds an industrial site water sample that has undergone plasma treatment inside Professor John Foster's lab at the Cooley Building on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on February 6, 2020.     Low temperature plasma efficiently uses energetic electrons to drive a reactive mix of hydroxyl radical, ozone, UV as well as ultrasound shockwaves dosing the water in a reactive species that shatters the PFAS molecules. Foster’s set up with plasma exposes the contaminated water to high temperatures upward to several thousands of degrees from repetitive bursts of plasma over a short period of time completely disassociating any trace of PFAS in the water sample.     Photo by Robert Coelius/University of Michigan Engineering, Communications and Marketing
Treating PFAS water contamination with cold plasma
Laboratory vials with the Environmental Protection Agency logo
EPA needs to keep up with science, do more to protect vulnerable populations
a utility worket examining a wastewater pipe
Leiser and Mills contribute to resources for new Michigan Lead and Copper Rule
Zetian Mi working with lab equipment`
Quantum Engineering for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy
Dr. Mark Rowe and Dr. Craig Stow standing in front of a map of Lake Erie
Hypoxia Early Warning System
Maple leaf on Lake Superior
Microplastics in the Great Lakes
People cleaning up plastic on a beach
Turning Great Lakes beach plastic into fashion
Two people cutting a yellow ribbon in from of a woman's bathroom door
Restrooms help demonstrate urine fertilizer concept