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 A group of ORNL staff standing in a long corridor with flags hanging from the ceiling

For 25 years, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have used their broad expertise in human health risk assessment, ecology, radiation protection, toxicology and information management to develop widely used tools and data for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the agency’s Superfund program.

ORNL researchers are demonstrating an automation system for this portable system, currently based in Colorado, for treatment of non-traditional water sources to drinking water standards. Credit: Tzahi Cath/Colorado School of Mines

Researchers at ORNL are developing advanced automation techniques for desalination and water treatment plants, enabling them to save energy while providing affordable drinking water to small, parched communities without high-quality water supplies.

Mirko Musa was always fascinated by the power of rivers, specifically how these mighty waterways sculpt landscapes. Now, as a water power researcher, he’s finding ways to harness that power and protect rivers at the same time. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Mirko Musa spent his childhood zigzagging his bike along the Po River. The Po, Italy’s longest river, cuts through a lush valley of grain and vegetable fields, which look like a green and gold ocean spreading out from the river’s banks. 

Saubhagya Rathore uses his modeling, hydrology and engineering expertise to improve understanding of the nation’s watersheds to better predict the future climate and to guide resilience strategies. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Growing up exploring the parklands of India where Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration for The Jungle Book left Saubhagya Rathore with a deep respect and curiosity about the natural world. He later turned that interest into a career in environmental science and engineering, and today he is working at ORNL to improve our understanding of watersheds for better climate prediction and resilience.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed an adsorbent material to rapidly remove toxic chromium and arsenic simultaneously from water resources. Credit: Adam Malin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Researchers at ORNL are tackling a global water challenge with a unique material designed to target not one, but two toxic, heavy metal pollutants for simultaneous removal.

The ORNL-developed AquaBOT measures a range of water quality indicators, providing data for studies focused on clean water and sustainable energy. Credit: Natalie Griffiths/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Measuring water quality throughout river networks with precision, speed and at lower cost than traditional methods is now possible with AquaBOT, an aquatic drone developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

ORNL researchers worked with partners at the Colorado School of Mines and Baylor University to develop a new process optimization and control method for a closed-circuit reverse osmosis desalination system. The work is intended to support fully automated, decentralized water treatment plants. Credit: Andrew Sproles/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists worked with the Colorado School of Mines and Baylor University to develop and test control methods for autonomous water treatment plants that use less energy and generate less waste.

ORNL’s Marie Kurz examines the many factors affecting the health of streams and watersheds. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Spanning no less than three disciplines, Marie Kurz’s title — hydrogeochemist — already gives you a sense of the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of her research at ORNL.

Results show change in annual aridity for the years 2071-2100 compared to 1985-2014. Brown shadings (negative numbers) indicate drier conditions. Black dots indicate statistical significance at the 90% confidence level. Credit: Jiafu Mao/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A new analysis from Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that intensified aridity, or drier atmospheric conditions, is caused by human-driven increases in greenhouse gas emissions. The findings point to an opportunity to address and potentially reverse the trend by reducing emissions.

Planting native grasses such as the bioenergy crop switchgrass can restore habitat for birds like this Eastern kingbird. Credit: Chris Lituma/West Virginia University

An analysis by Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that using less-profitable farmland to grow bioenergy crops such as switchgrass could fuel not only clean energy, but also gains in biodiversity.