Dr. Hans Peterson remembered for bringing safe drinking water to thousands

A pioneer in safe drinking water is being remembered for changing the lives of thousands.

Water expert who pioneered the development of an Integrated Biological water system dies at 68

Hans Peterson was passionate about safe drinking water for everyone.

A pioneer in safe drinking water is being remembered for changing thousands of lives.

Dr. Hans Peterson died of a heart attack last week at the age of 68.

Hans Peterson died at the age of 68.

Peterson helped found the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) and pioneered the development of the Integrated Biological and Reverse Osmosis Membrane (IBROM) water treatment process.

IBROM was developed at Yellow Quill First Nation from 2002 to 2004. At the time Yellow Quill's groundwater was considered untreatable.

Brian Tralnberg, president of the Safe Drinking Water Team and the lead operator of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation Treatment Plants, said IBROM was groundbreaking technology.

"It was much more efficient than the standard water treatment in Canada," Tralnberg told Leisha Grebinski on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

"We actually used the naturally born biology of the water to remove the impurities in the water. And [Peterson] dreamt this thing up living out of a little 40-foot trailer in Yellow Quill, Saskatchewan."

The invention helped end boil water advisories for 21 First Nations in the province.

"It's the reason I have two biological water treatment plants at Whitecap right now," Tralnberg said. "Without him we'd be back with the traditional old green sand filtration."

His impact was felt most in small communities with poor water sources.

Peterson founded the Safe Drinking Water Foundation in 1998 to educate students across Canada and to lobby municipal, provincial and federal governments to improve water regulations.

Passion for safe water

Nicole Hancock, executive director of the SDWF, said Peterson was passionate about making sure everyone had safe drinking water.

Nicole Hancock (left) and Brian Tralnberg say Dr. Hans Peterson's work in the area of safe drinking water was groundbreaking. (CBC)

"There's over 100,000 people who have safe drinking water because of Peterson's invention," Hancock said.

"Even after he retired he was working 18-hour days trying to push water issues forward."

Legacy continues

Peterson's work will carry on.

"There are people in Saskatchewan who don't have safe drinking water and that is obviously a major issue," Hancock said, adding safe drinking water isn't just a developing world problem.

"At any given time there are about 1,000 drinking water advisories in place across Canada."

The SDWF focuses on informing the next generation by sending about 700 water testing kits to schools across Canada every school year.

"We are going to be continuing the fight to have safe drinking water for everyone," Hancock said.

A service for Peterson will be held Thursday at Saskatoon Funeral Home.

- With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning