Is This Water Clean? Look Closer

Marina Gutierrez (ESR11)

Hi! I am Marina, ESR#11 from Nowelties program between the University of Ferrara and the University of Zagreb. Let’s see how I arrived here J

The first years of my life were influenced by the water of the river next to home. We lived on a farm in Chile and the river was both the basis of our prosperity and a small-catastrophe-maker from time to time. I remember how vegetables were growing in spring and the floods in autumn. I remember the feeling of my skin burning after swimming in the river once. “Something contaminated it upstream” was said, and we didn’t have any other option than waiting.

I moved to Galicia without knowing that was the rainiest region in Spain and I discovered here how much water can influence people’s lives. Do you know that they have more than 70 words to describe only the rain? It was difficult to adapt but nice to discover the feeling that everything was alive, growing and renewing without effort. Sadly, coming back here on holidays has not been the same for the last few years due to climate change.

When I decided to study biotechnology in Girona, a very Mediterranean province of Spain, I realized water scarcity can be a real issue in some parts of the world. I moved there with the purpose of helping people with medical research, but my mind changed to help the environment. We were nothing if we didn’t have a place to live. I was concerned, motivated, obsessed. I joined a master’s degree in water science, and I realized there were many problems to face and many ways to deal with them.

Let’s confess that it was not easy to decide how to contribute to the improvement of the quality of water bodies. I studied and tried everything I could from both ecological and technology perspectives and I realized that, as a human being, I couldn’t stop generating residues around, even without pretending it.

We advance as a society, but we pay a price for what we produce. So, why not focus on trying to avoid this contamination?

My Ph.D. is about to remove micro-contaminants (the really tiny ones!) from wastewater using membrane bioreactors and activated carbon. It took me years to be conscious that water sets the pace in any region of the world but hey, now I can’t stop thinking about it.