Today’s water-treatment plants combine practices designed to cope individually with various types of purification challenges. In some cases, the solution to one has detrimental effects on others, e.g. disinfection by chlorination forming hazardous organic contaminants. Water-treatment plants have large ecological footprints and operational costs, making the availability of high-quality water in developing areas almost impossible, due to lack of resources and infrastructure. Indeed, >2 billion people are exposed to diseases caused by contaminated water. Clearly, bringing safe, clean drinking water to people’s homes is essential to a good quality of life. Clay minerals may offer technologies and innovative practices which would help to develop a reliable, low-maintenance device with a small environmental footprint that processes stream, lake, or pond water into high-quality potable water. The basis for such technologies has already been established and improved approaches are being introduced on an ongoing basis by clay scientists: nanocomposite pre-treatment and disinfection, photodegradation of organic pollutants using clay-based catalysts, polishing of inorganic contaminants, and removal of biological pathogens by adsorption or deactivation onto specifically designed clay-based filters, etc. This short review presents a vision for combining those technologies in a tandem system for the delivery of high-quality water that is low-maintenance, affordable, and environmentally sustainable for the benefit of mankind.

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