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Population growth, rapid urbanization, and a changing climate are threatening our inland and coastal waters.

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Close-up of water pouring out of a spigot

Fresh water resources throughout the world have dwindled to a point in which over one quarter of the world’s population may soon run out of water.

In the face of these challenges, we work to ensure the health of our natural water environments and to create efficient solutions to sustain our water resources.

We focus on understanding how chemicals and pathogens behave in urban and natural waters and how to develop treatment systems to minimize the impacts of pollutants in the environment. Much of our work is on water reuse and energy-efficient water purification and wastewater treatment.

We are also world leaders in analysis and simulation of surface and groundwater flows, with an emphasis on coastal regions, which are particularly vulnerable in the face of a changing climate and the rise of coastal megacities. Understanding hydrology and the impact of climate on existing and future water resources, with an emphasis on ensuring access to water and sanitation in less industrialized economies, is another focus of our faculty.

Waste Water Testing

Codiga Resource Recovery Center

Codiga Resource Recovery Center Process Overview: Water, Energy, Materials, Nutrients, Information

The Codiga Center diverts wastewater from the Stanford sewer line underneath Serra Street. The wastewater is pumped into the facility, where it proceeds through three treatment steps: the Grit Tank, the Microscreen, and Anaerobic Secondary Treatment. Each of these processes generates a continuous stream of water that flows past the test bed area and through the sensor test station. New treatment technologies can be deployed in each of the four test bed bays or into one of the sensor slots and plug and play into the water quality of their choice to test and evaluate their system

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Coastal and Estuarine Circulation and Sediment Transport

SF Bay Wave modeling

Surface Water Flow Modeling

The Fringer research group focuses on the development and implementation of numerical modeling techniques to simulate multiscale fluid dynamical processes in the environment.  Research projects include nonhydrostatic ocean modeling, analysis of internal waves, estuarine flow physics and modeling, and sediment transport modeling.


Wastewater Reuse

Innovations in the Potable Reuse of Municipal Wastewater

Wastewater Reuse - Municipal Wastewater
Wastewater Reuse Research Facility

The shortage of clean water represents a critical challenge for the next century, and has necessitated the use of impaired waters as potable water supplies. While there has been some interest among the public in seawater desalination, utilities are far more focused on the recycling of municipal wastewaters, which is less energy-intensive. Our research focuses on the chemical safety of potable reuse waters. Potable reuse trains have typically relied upon reverse osmosis (RO) as a physical separation process followed by an advanced oxidation process (AOP) based on the production of hydroxyl radical by the UV photolysis of hydrogen peroxide (UV/H2O2 AOP). Because the UV/H2O2 AOP is inefficient, our work is evaluating alternatives, including the UV photolysis of chlorine (UV/HOCl AOP) and the electrochemical activation of H2O2. In other research, we are evaluating the treatment of RO concentrate (the stream of waste products rejected by RO membranes) prior to discharge to sensitive ecosystems. Lastly, there is interest in alternatives to RO, which is energy-intensive. Our work is developing a protocol to compare the chemical safety of potable reuse waters generated by RO or RO-free potable reuse trains and comparing these waters to conventional drinking waters. Our research combines laboratory-scale evaluations with pilot- and full-scale validation.

Mitch Group

Turbulence & Experimental Fluid Mechanics

Environmental Complexity Lab

Turbulent fluid flow and self-organization

we study self-organization in a variety of complex systems with relevance to the environment, ranging from turbulent fluid flow to granular materials to collective motion in animal groups. In all cases, we aim to characterize the macroscopic behavior, understand its origin in the microscopic dynamics, and ultimately harness it for engineering applications. Most of our projects are experimental, though we also use numerical simulation and mathematical modeling when appropriate.

Research topics include: Lagrangian Particle Tracking, Coherent Structures in Fluid Flows, Turbulence in Complex Fluids, Particle Transport in Fluid Flows, Collective Animal Behavior and Granular Erosion.

Urban and Natural Water Infrastructure Systems

Urban stormwater capture and treatment for water supply

Machado Lake

ReNUWIt project N2.7 fosters innovative stormwater management practices at the watershed-scale by developing new technologies for cost-effective treatment of stormwater in engineered, media-enhanced infiltration systems. This project investigates the effectiveness of biochar, compost, and Mn-oxide coated sand for the removal of nutrients, metals, and trace organic contaminants from urban stormwater to prevent the contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies with use of urban runoff.