Science Can Turn Cow Poop Into Clean Water

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Scientists at Michigan State University say they have developed a system that turns cow manure into clean water, while extracting valuable nutrients and helping the environment, which is as gross as it is impressive.  

The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System uses an anaerobic digester (a machine that takes waste and creates energy) coupled with an ultrafiltration, air stripping, reverse osmosis system. The final product: clean water. 

“If you have 1,000 cows on your operation, they produce about 10 million gallons of manure a year,” said Steve Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at Michigan State University, who helped develop the project. He says about 90 percent of manure is actually water, but the other 10 percent is a "large amounts of nutrients, carbon and pathogens that can have an environmental impact if not properly managed.”

The system produces about 50 gallons of water per 100 gallons of manure, but they're hoping to up it to 65 gallons of water. The project, which has been underway for about ten years, was first developed by MSU researchers who say the system could be ready for commercialization by the end of 2014. 

While the university assures us the water is clean enough to drink, I would still run it through a Brita before downing a glass. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.