Filter Your Water With Cactus? Yes!

In a recent article on EcoGeek, Megan Treacy reports on research done at the University of South Florida where scientists have re-discovered the ability of prickly pear cactus to purify water. Turns out that an extract from the prickly pear cactus is great at removing sediment and bacteria from dirty water. Prickly pear grows all over the world, even in the mid west where it freezes up in winter and regenerates in spring!

Re-discovered you ask? Did you know that nineteenth-century Mexican communities apparently used the cactus as a water purifier? They were way ahead of their time.

The very part of the cactus that stores water, a kind of thick gum, seems to do the trick. The scientists at the university extracted the gum and then added it to water containing sediment and bacteria. When the gum was added, the sediment and bacteria combined and settle to the bottom. Tests showed that 98 percent of the bacteria was removed from the water. Subsequent tests will use natural water. The next phase is to test it on natural water.

It’s interesting how Mother Nature provides so many solutions to problems that our 21st century technology wrestles with. Sunlight to create energy and structure. Hair and hay to clean up oil.  Desert dwellers have long known that cactus conserves and contains potable drinking water. The survival of the plant and of those who use it for water depends on this unique characteristic. Now this knowledge could benefit communities worldwide where drinking water is scarce or dirty. Simply boiling a slice of prickly pear to release the gum could provide a simple means of purifying local water. If widespread propagation of the cactus can be achieved, and the results in Florida replicated throughout the world, millions could have easy access to clean, local, inexpensive water. Now’s that’s something to get prickly about.

Courtesy of Joe Laur- Greenopolis

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