Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment: Sustainable Solutions for Cleaner, Safer Water

Natural Polymers in Drinking Water

In a world increasingly concerned about water quality Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment offer an attractive path toward safe and sustainable solutions.

These bio-based materials, often derived from plant or animal sources, are capturing attention for their potential to reduce reliance on metal salts and synthetic chemicals in treating water. 

They promise a future where we can sip our water with confidence, knowing that the purification process aligns with both human and environmental health. What I’ve discovered through my work with natural polymers, though, is that some people think this stuff sounds weird or impractical because they picture a vat of boiling okra churning through city water. It actually sounds a lot weirder than it is. 

You’ll see, the science of Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment is surprisingly fascinating, and the real-world implications are quite promising.

Table of Contents:

What Makes Natural Polymers so Appealing?

Natural polymers for water treatment, made up of long chains of molecules, mimic those often used in wastewater treatment. As I dig deeper into these naturally derived polymers though, I started realizing their advantages for a wider range of uses in drinking water systems. The appeal for plant operators stems from a combination of cost-savings and a genuine desire to be better environmental stewards. This resonates particularly strong for folks running municipal water works.

Benefits of Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Systems

I remember early in my career having a conversation with an environmentally conscious plant manager who felt frustrated with his limited options for dealing with organic solids, such as tannins, lignin, and certain types of starches. These were getting in his water from agricultural runoff and creating headaches in his coagulation process treatment. You can also get these kinds of naturally-occurring contaminants from decaying vegetation or plant matter. What we came up with together, ended up helping a bunch of our clients who shared similar situations. The Zeoturb liquid bio-organic flocculant used in these applications, proved less disruptive than some of the typical water treatment methods used by these clients. This is especially true as the regulatory environment shifts and tighter parameters need to be met.


Folks are increasingly cautious about the residual effects on human health of synthetic water treatment chemicals because they worry about things they don’t fully understand. So they look at natural polymers as less “chemical.” You get less of that push back when the origin is organic because, generally speaking, these materials don’t release the kind of harsh residues you get from the use of conventional chemicals like alum, poly aluminum chloride or synthetic polymers. Those residuals that can hang around in drinking water sometimes carry toxicity risk and present a health hazard.


Natural polymers decompose into simple, natural materials like water or carbon dioxide as they get broken down by things like bacteria or sunlight.

Plant operators worry less about lingering synthetic chemicals in discharged water as we strive to find that ideal point that makes sustainable water treatment possible.

This kind of organic decomposition is quite the departure from some of the stuff we see happening with polyacrylamide and polyDADMAC where it tends to just hang out for longer periods and resists any kind of natural degradation. It makes it harder for the plant operators to control it. It’s an issue that impacts both the sustainability professionals and plant operators.

This also affects engineers as they grapple with those conflicting forces of higher efficiency and environmental integrity when designing systems to purify contaminated water.

We have supplied Zeoturb, a NSF certified liquid bio-organic flocculant for several plant managers looking for sustainable natural organic polymers. This has given them a new tool, one that doesn’t create downstream headaches from the sludge generated by treatment process.

Resource Renewability

Plant operators and engineers gravitate toward a sense of resilience because everyone gets unnerved about dependence upon fluctuating energy markets or disrupted supply chains that are impacting both operational cost and longevity.

Because naturally occurring polymers can be sourced from readily available resources, they have offered a stabilizing force to some of the municipal plants I’ve done consulting for.

This has offered a steady path that helps to balance the scales against those unpredictable elements. They’ve seen how plant-based or marine based organic alternatives are sustainably sourced, providing a secure line that eases the worry about shortages.

Types of Natural Polymers: Diverse Tools for Different Challenges

I’ll be the first to tell you, there is no singular “best” natural polymer when you’re treating water. Choosing the right solution, just like for other treatments like reverse osmosis systems depend on a lot of unique things: source water, cost considerations and contaminants present. This is why a careful water analysis and collaboration with an expert is key when selecting the right fit for your application.

Each of the natural polymer types come with specific characteristics that make them useful for unique water treatment issues, offering flexibility in choosing those materials for different operational demands.

Zeoturb Liquid Biorganic Flocculant: An Industry Workhorse

Zeoturb, is an NSF certified polymer derived from marine life. It has been one of the “go-to” solutions for operators because of its inherently positive charge.

There are many applications for this naturally derived biopolymer in industries like the food industry where waste from food processing is common.

It can handle those small contaminant particles sticking together in micro-flocs. This process often reduces total organic carbon because you get those dissolved organic solids sticking to this polymer and subsequently being filtered out as sludge as well.

For the operators managing both smaller and large-scale water clarification operations natural polymers like Zeoturb offer a reliable, sustainable option for settling out impurities and reducing sludge generation.

Some interesting research is now taking natural polymers a step further by examining how specific properties of different natural polymers can be optimized for many water clarification applications.


Cationic Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment

Anionic Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment

These polymers like Zeoturb, help with those pesky negatively-charged impurities often found in water, forming little clumps we call micro-flocs for easier removal. Think about clay or silt that clouds your drinking water or those organic bits and pieces from plant matter, algae, and even bacteria that hang out in your water supply.

These are your helpers for tackling positively charged contaminants like metal ions.

Starch-Based: Very easy to find. They’re a good option for municipalities looking to reduce phosphorus and can act a bit more “gentle” than those harsher chemical treatments.

Real-Life Success: Plant Operators Share Their Experiences

My team was asked to help a large municipality in Australia struggling with exceptionally high concentrations of organic compounds.

Their current pretreatment using inorganic polymers along with conventional filtration was having an inconsistent effect, and as it proved challenging to fix because seasonal shifts impacted water temperature and sediment levels which in turn changed their parameters.

This municipality needed a solution they could control better to maintain compliance and keep things stable through changes in weather and precipitation levels.

We have had successful results working with them to optimize their drinking water quality.

Future Outlook for Natural Water Treatment Polymers: Why It’s Important

The future outlook for bio polymers in drinking water treatment is promising, driven by increasing environmental concerns, regulatory pressures, and advancements in bio polymer innovation.

Here are some key aspects of this outlook:

1. Increased Adoption and Application

  • Sustainability: Biopolymers are derived from renewable sources and are biodegradable, making them an eco-friendly alternative to traditional synthetic polymers such as Poly DADMAC and polyacrylamide. As environmental regulations become stricter and the demand for sustainable solutions grows, the use of bio polymers in water treatment is expected to continually rise.
  • Applications: Bio polymers can be used in various stages of water treatment, including coagulation, flocculation and adsorption. Their versatility enables them to remove a wide range of contaminants, including trace heavy metals, organic compounds, suspended solids, algae and pathogens.

2. Technological Advancements

  • Enhanced Efficiency: Ongoing research and development are focused on improving the treatment efficiency of bio polymers in drinking water clarification processes. This includes modifying their chemical structures to enhance their binding capacities and stability in different water conditions.
  • Nano technology: The integration of biopolymers with nano materials can lead to the development of natural nano composite materials with superior adsorption and antimicrobial properties, further enhancing their effectiveness in specific polluted water treatment applications.

3. Economic Viability

  • Cost Reduction: Advances in bio polymer production and processing techniques are expected to optimize costs, making them more competitive with conventional water treatment chemicals.
  • Resource Availability: Utilizing abundant and low-cost natural resources, such as agricultural and marine byproducts for biopolymer production can improve their economic viability.

These key aspects identified above have prompted many countries, especially those experiencing increased drought and population pressures that depend on high-volume water treatment to begin searching for sustainable water treatment approaches.

According to research, a growing number of folks across the US and around the world are increasingly becoming advocates of sustainable natural polymers for water treatment.

This was similar to what happened when poly DADMAC and polyacrylamide were first adopted which to a certain extent reduced the demand for conventional metal coagulants over the recent decades.

FAQs about Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment

What are polymers in drinking water treatment?

Polymers, naturally occurring or synthesized from organic sources like plant material or even chitin from shells, help bring tiny particles together. This is kind of like using a magnet to pick up iron filings; the magnet pulls them together making it easier to gather them up and remove them.

Those tiny particles floating in water are then gathered and removed from our drinking water through filtration, creating a clearer product and getting rid of potential contaminants or pollutants. They offer a green and sustainable alternative to some of the traditional harsh chemicals often used.

How safe are organic polymers in water treatment?

They have shown themselves to be far less toxic and safer. That’s because many of these decompose more readily into simple harmless substances. A growing segment of plant operators even views them as the preferred “green alternative” in those communities highly concerned about the trace chemical build-up that synthetic water treatments can cause in municipal systems as the organic matter binds with those traditional treatment products and accumulates over time.

Several recent studies are suggesting this switch from traditional treatment approaches to natural polymer clarification may be a contributor in minimizing some human health issues.

What is the best polymer for water treatment?

It’s not easy picking a singular “best polymer”. It really boils down to what is going on in your system and your operating needs. Things like the source of water you are dealing with (ground, surface), contaminants such as trace metals, algae or other microorganisms – and of course your budget.

What are examples of natural polymers?

Some familiar examples that our clients gravitate toward because they are easy to understand (that doesn’t make them “best” though, remember.) are plant derived derived polymers such as alginates, celluloses or starches or marine derived polymers like Zeoturb liquid bio-organic polymer.

These polymers will become increasingly popular as regulations tighten and lower-sludge solids concentrations are increasingly sought after.


I truly believe the science and research behind Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment shows amazing potential for improving water treatment for the future. What I’m hearing more and more from plant operators these days as these natural polymer coagulants and flocculants start to gain wider industry acceptance is that they welcome the peace of mind knowing that their treatments don’t carry any unintended negative consequences if they are used properly.

Unlike those conventional metal salts or synthetic chemistries, something the engineers in the room are finally starting to come to grips with as well because their designs can take advantage of these new sustainable treatment processes.

Natural Polymers in Drinking Water Treatment may not be the perfect solution for all water treatment issues, yet, just like we saw with poly DADMAC they will surely continue to play a bigger and bigger role as we move into the future.

Contact the water treatment specialists at Genesis Water Technologies today at +1 877 267 3699 or via email at to learn more about how natural polymers like Zeoturb liquid bio-organic flocculant can transform your water or wastewater treatment process and contribute to a more sustainable future. 

Together, let’s pave the way for cleaner water and a healthier environment.