Water Ways: "Eco-Machine" Coming to Philly

An Eco-Machine at the Intervale Food Centre, Burlington, VermontWe use water to clean just about everything: our dishes, our clothing, even ourselves. So how do we clean our water? Normally, it’s a complicated process, often involving huge amounts of energy and a host of chemicals. Dr. John Todd set out to tackle this problem more than two decades ago.

“We put so many chemicals into the water we drink and use, and it's coming back to haunt us,” he explains. Known affectionately as the “Water Doctor,” he has developed a process of purifying water through a series of small, self-contained aquatic eco-systems. He calls his invention the “Eco-Machine.”

Wastewater passes through diverse communities of bacteria and other microorganisms, as well as algae, plants, trees, snails and fish, and comes out the other end as pure drinking water.The process is completely sustainable and uses almost no electricity. Dr. Todd believes his water purification model represents the “dawn of a new way of supporting ourselves.”

Dr. Todd has been advising Chris Wilcox and Alan Jalón, two graduate students from Philadelphia University's Sustainable Design program, on how to bring one of his Eco-Machine installations to Philadelphia in an effort to clean the Schuykill River.

To learn more about the Water Doctor’s methods, check out his lecture at the Academy of Natural Sciences on Tuesday, November 30 at 6 p.m.; admission is FREE!