Nathan Steinbach ’24 to Represent Wisconsin at National Water Competition

Nathan Steinbach ’24 to Represent Wisconsin at National Water Competition

Congratulations to Nathan Steinbach ’24, a University School of Milwaukee junior, who has been chosen by the Central States Water Environment Association as the 2023 Wisconsin Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) state winner. He will compete in the national SJWP competition at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado from June 15 through 18. His travel, program expenses, meals, and accommodations will be provided by the Water Environment Federation.

Steinbach’s project, titled “PFAS: Analyzing Multiple Methods of Elimination Through Various Algorithms,” centers on the elimination of PFAS from water systems. PFOS, or a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), are unbreakable chemicals that can build up in the body and interfere with lipid metabolism, liver function, and kidney function. Steinbach studied three methods to remove PFAS from the water systems: deionization, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Through a series of statistical analysis, he determined that reverse osmosis is the most effective and economical way to remove the chemicals.   

Steinbach competed in the regional science fair held at USM in February, and he also competed at the Badger State Science and Engineering Fair, where he won the regional SJWP and the second award in environmental sciences. He then submitted a paper to the state SJWP, which earned him a first place award in the state competition. At the national SJWP competition, he will be representing the state of Wisconsin and competing against students from all over the country.

The inspiration for Steinbach’s project stemmed from a dinner-table conversation with his father, a civil engineer. “My dad was telling me about how he has to account for PFAS specifications in his projects involving drainage systems and stormwater retention ponds,” said Steinbach. “So I started doing a little bit of research on PFAS and realized the prevalence that it has in the everyday lives of almost every single person in the Unites States. I started wondering, how can I eliminate the chemical from our water?”

Steinbach hopes to expand his research as more effective methods of detecting PFAS in water supplies are developed. “There’s emerging research every day about PFAS, it’s very relevant in the water industry. As detection methods improve, my next step is to start testing the Great Lakes to see what kind of contaminants they have.”

About the Stockholm Junior Water Prize

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is the world’s most important competition for water innovators in the age group 15-20. Contests are held in 37 countries this year and the national winners will travel to Stockholm in August to take part of the international finals during World Water Week.

The jury, consisting of top water experts from different parts of the world, will review all the projects competing in the finals and interview the contestants.