A low-cost water filtration system that uses a collection of bacteria to remove nitrates, phosphates and E. coli may be the answer to cleaning up our lakes and rivers.
Ngārie Scartozzi has been developing the eClean bioreactor for 15 years and is expecting to bring her invention to the market next year.
Unlike other filtration systems, Scartozzi's uses selected bacteria that are placed in the tank-like device. As the water is pumped in, the microbiome breaks apart the nitrates, phosphates and E. coli.
The water is then oxygenated as it is put back into the waterway, which Scartozzi said is good for places such as the Avon River as it is low in oxygen.
No chemicals and just a small amount of energy are used in the process.
The key to the technology is that it can be mass-manufactured and duplicated, Scartozzi told the Herald.
"The microbiome is amazingly versatile. You can apply it to urban streams, you can apply it to agricultural settings where there are high pollutants, industrial water. You can adjust it depending on the contaminant source.
"The water comes out extremely clean, it's crisp."
Planning is under way for new models that are also fully solar-powered.
Scartozzi is studying towards a PhD at the University of Canterbury focused on using bioreactor technology on water bodies affected by pollution, particularly those connected to local Māori.
The project has been funded by the Christchurch City Council's Smart Cities programme.
The tank has been placed along the Ilam Stream on Corfe St which feeds into the Avon River. Scartozzi is collaborating with Drinkable Rivers NZ on the field tests.
"A hundred per cent of lab trials are complete, this is our field trial. We are quite close to commercialising as well – we will go through the commercialisation phase about mid-next year.
"With the help of the council, it's been a really good journey. I've had great support from Ara too."
Smart Christchurch is a programme run by the Christchurch City Council to explore new technology and innovation.
Programme manager Michael Healy said they met Scartozzi at an expo run by the Ministry of Awesome and were instantly interested in the idea.
"We want to improve water quality in the Avon River and return it to a healthier state with fish and insect life," he said. They have since been supporting the scientist in her endeavours.
Hugo Plastics is the manufacturer behind the invention.
South Island manager Brian Curran said Scartozzi reached out and asked if they could make her concept a reality.
"And here we are, the public love it. It's a really honourable, positive project to be involved in," he said.
For further inquiries about the E-Clean biroeactor, visit the Hugo Plastics website.