World Water Day 2018

March 22, 2018

(March 22, 2018) Today, in honor of World Water Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) are highlighting the use of nanotechnology for water treatment and purification. Our Nation depends on the availability of clean water for all aspects of life: drinking, bathing, cooking, growing crops, supporting livestock and fisheries, and in industry, tourism, agriculture, transportation, and even for American astronauts in space.

To meet the national need for clean and plentiful water, the National Nanotechnology Initiative —a research and development initiative comprised of 20 departments and independent agencies— supports the Nanotechnology Signature Initiative (NSI) for Water, known as the Water NSI. The Water NSI is an interagency collaboration that leverages the newest and most promising research through close and targeted program-level cooperation to bolster water security and supply. Federal agencies participating in the Water NSI work together to address technical challenges related to water quality and quantity, including increasing water availability, improving the efficiency of water delivery and use, and enabling the next-generation water monitoring systems. The goal of the Water NSI is to take advantage of the unique properties of engineered nanomaterials to generate significant breakthroughs to address these challenges. 

Major advancements are already underway at Federal agencies and National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)-affiliated, Federally funded centers across the United States. One example is the National Science Foundation-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT). Researchers at NEWT are using nanotechnology to create portable, off-grid water treatment systems that can be used in rural communities or deployed to disaster areas.

Department of Energy researchers at Argonne National Lab have developed sponges made of nanomaterials that can be used to clean oil spills and recover the fuel. The “Oleo Sponge” is a reusable sponge that can capture oil both on the surface of the water and beneath it, and can then be wrung out to recapture the oil for future use. 

Federally funded research at universities has led to independent, spin-off companies that use nanotechnology for nano-enabled water innovations. One of these small businesses now creates inexpensive, portable, and highly effective water filters using carbon nanotubes.

On this World Water Day, the NNCO is highlighting the NNI’s commitment to funding research into low-cost, low-energy technologies for water quality testing and treatment for a healthier and more secure America.

For more detailed water research highlights, as well as webinars, videos, and podcasts, visit