NORMAN — On Thursday morning, Brad Moery was on the University of Oklahoma's South Oval, trying to convince strangers to drink from a tank of water with a layer of brown sludge at the bottom.
By noon, he'd had no takers.
“Most people are scared,” he said. “They're a little hesitant when they see the brown stuff at the bottom.”
Anyone who didn't find the sludge too off-putting might have changed their minds when they heard that the water had come from OU's duck pond. But despite how it looked, the water was safe to drink, and tasted like ordinary, clean water.
Moery, a civil engineering major, and other students used the water as a part of a public demonstration organized Thursday by OU's WaTER Center.
During the demonstration, students from the center used water purification packets to treat water from the pond. After they added the packets and stirred the water for five minutes, any sediment in the water coagulated and fell to the bottom of the tank. When it did, it created what looked like a layer of filth.
Another chemical in the purification packet disinfected the water, making it safe to drink, Moery said.
For an added layer of purification, the students offered water filtration straws for passers-by to drink from the tank. Still, nobody was interested.
The WaTER Center — an acronym for Water Technologies for Emerging Regions — is a relatively new OU program that trains students to go to work in developing regions after they graduate. The center is a part of the university's School of Engineering and Environmental Science.
The technique the students demonstrated Thursday is a good option in an emergency situation, where people need clean water immediately and don't have another way of treating it. In an actual emergency, the water would be poured through a makeshift filter like a towel or a piece of clothing to filter out the sediment, she said.
Water filtration packets aren't always the best option in a developing region with water security issues, said Jim Chamberlain, the center's staff researcher. For the packets to work correctly, the water must be stirred for at least five minutes, he said. If a person doesn't know to stir it for long enough, the water could still be contaminated.