Occurrence of contaminants in drinking water sources and the potential of biochar for water quality improvement: A review

Kumuduni Niroshika Palansooriya, Yi Yang, Yiu Fai Tsang, Binoy Sarkar, Deyi Hou, Xinde Cao, Erik Meers, Jörg Rinklebe, Ki Hyun Kim, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, the occurrence of contaminants in drinking water sources was described in relation to their treatment options based on both conventional (e.g., coagulation-flocculation, sedimentation filtration, and chlorination) and advanced treatment techniques (e.g., membrane filtration, ozonation, and biofiltration). However, due to apparent drawbacks of these methods (e.g., formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs)), it is desirable to develop an alternative option for safe drinking water. In this respect, biochar is recognized as an effective candidate to resolve the limitations in treating common pollutants typically occurring in drinking water such as microbial contaminants, inorganic contaminants, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). As biochar can exhibit different types of interactions with adsorbates, its sorption processes can be explained by diverse mechanisms, e.g., π-π electron donor-acceptor interactions, complexation, precipitation, H-bonding, and electrostatic attraction. In light of the attractive features of biochar (e.g., enhanced sorption properties, cost-effectiveness, and environmentally friendly nature), we offer in-depth discussion on biochar-based water treatment technologies for large-scale water purification operation.Highlights Occurrence of various contaminants in drinking water sources are discussed. Human health impacts of exposure to drinking water contaminants are highlighted. Performances and limitations of conventional and advanced water treatment technologies are discussed. Potentials of pristine and modified biochars for drinking water purification are emphasized. Feasibility and importance of biochar-based large-scale water treatment technologies are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-611
Number of pages63
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 18

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Ki-Hyun Kim acknowledges support made in part by grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (Grant No: 2016R1E1A1A01940995).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • biochar
  • contaminants
  • drinking water
  • water quality
  • water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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