B.S. ​Civil Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1983M.S. Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1984​Ph.D. ​Civil Engineering, Princeton University, 1992

"My research brings innovative household-level water-treatment technologies to the developing world."

James A. Smith, Henry L. Kinnier Professor of Civil Engineering

James A. Smith is an environmental engineer holding the Henry L. Kinnier Chair of Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1983 and 1984, respectively. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University in 1992.

He worked as a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey from 1985 to 1992. In 1992, he accepted his current position as a faculty member in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Virginia.

Mr. Smith has served as the UPS Foundation Visiting Professor of Environmental Engineering at Stanford University (1998-99) and as the William R. Kenan Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University (2004-05). At the University of Virginia, he has been the recipient of the Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award (1997) and has held the Cavalier’s Distinguished Teaching Chair (2000-02). He was selected to receive the AEESP/McGraw Hill Outstanding Teaching Award in 2002. In 2017, he was selected as a Fulbright Research Fellow and conducted research during Fall 2017 in Limpopo Province, South Africa at the University of Venda.

Mr. Smith is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and is the founder of PureMadi, a not-for-profit organization working to solve global water and health problems by working at the interface of water, societal, and human health disciplines. He is also a member of the Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) program in collaboration with the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa.

Mr. Smith is the inventor of the MadiDrop+, a silver-embedded porous ceramic tablet for purification of household drinking water. He is the founder of Silivhere Technologies, Inc. based in Charlottesville, VA. Silivhere Technologies is currently producing and selling MadiDrops+ around the world to improve water quality, human health, and quality of life.

His research interests include sustainable point-of-use water treatment technologies for the developing world and their impact on human health, the disinfection properties of zero-valent nano-silver and nano-copper particles, organic vapor transport in the vadose zone, low-impact development (LID) teachnologies for stormwater runoff, the fate and transport of emerging environmental pollutants, the engineering properties of organoclays, and bacterial transport and chemotaxis in porous media.


  • Member of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine 2022
  • Wesley W. Horner Award for best paper of the year in an ASCE Water Journal 2020
  • Fulbright Research Fellow 2017
  • Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award 2015
  • Diplomate, American Academy of Water Resources
  • Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow 2014
  • Elected by Eminence to the American Academy of Environmental Engineers 2009
  • Founder and Chairman of the Board of PureMadi 2012-present
  • Recipient of the Rudolph Hering Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for the best paper published in an ASCE water journal 2011
  • Jack H. Dillard Best Paper Award, Virginia Transportation Research Council 2004, 2006, and 2008
  • Civil Engineering Teaching Award 2006
  • William R. Kenan Visiting Associate Professor for Distinguished Teaching, Princeton University 2004-05
  • Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science 2002
  • University of Virginia Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professor 2000-02
  • UPS Foundation Visiting Professor of Environmental Engineering, Stanford University 1998-99
  • University of Virginia Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award 1997
  • U.S. Geological Survey Outstanding Performance Award 1992, 1988, 1986, 2004-05

Research Interests

  • Nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Resources

In the News

Selected Publications

  • Field and laboratory assessment of a new electrolytic point-of-use water treatment technology ABS Hill, C., Harris, J., Turner, S., Wason, K., Gaylord, A., Hatley, M., Hardcastle, L., Roberts, I., You, J., Renneker, K., Edokpayi, J., and Smith, J., 2022
  • Mitigation of Deicing Salt Loading to Water Resources by Transpiration from Green Infrastructure Vegetation ABS Zhang, W., Burgis, C.R., Hayes, G.M., Henderson, D.A., and Smith, J.A., 2022
  • Tracking denitrification in green stormwater infrastructure with nitrate stable isotopes ABS Burgis, C.R., Hayes, G.M., Zhang, W., Henderson, D.A., Macko, S.A., and Smith, J.A., 2020
  • Impact of low-cost point-of-use water treatment technologies on enteric infections and linear growth among children in Limpopo, South Africa ABS Hill, C.L., McCain, K.M., Nyathi, E., Edokpayi, J.N., Kahler, D.M., Operario, D.J., Taylor, D., Wright, N., Smith, J.A., Guerrant, R.L., Samie, A., Dillingham, R.A., Bessong, P.O., and Rogawski, E.T., 2020
  • Improving Antibacterial Performance of Household Water Filters with a Silver-Embedded Ceramic Tablet ABS Harris, J., Davis, J., Reese, M., Mannzhi, M., Tshidumo, N., Mhlarhi, R., Edokpayi, J., and Smith, J.A., 2023
  • A New Method for the Deposition of Metallic Silver on Porous Ceramic Water Filters: Journal of Nanotechnology ABS Jackson, K.G. and Smith, J.A., 2018
  • Evaluating the sustainability of ceramic filters for point-of-use drinking water treatment: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 47, no. 19, p. 11206-11213 ABS Ren, D., Colosi, L., and Smith, J.A., 2013
  • Retention and transport of silver nanoparticles in a ceramic porous medium used for point-of-use water treatment: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 47, p. 3825-3832; DOI: 10.1021/es4000752. Ren, Dianjun, and Smith, J.A., 2013
  • Quantitative dielectrophoretic tracking for characterization and separation of persistent subpopulations of Cryptosporidium parvum: Analyst ABS Su, Y.-H, Tsegaye, M., Varhue, W., Liao, K.-T, Abebe, L.S., Smith, J.A., Guerrant. R.L., and Swami, N.S., 2013
  • Disinfection action of electrostatic versus steric-stabilized silver nanoparticles on E. coli under different water chemistries: Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, v. 113, p. 77-84. Fauss, E.K., MacCuspie, R.I., Oyanedel-Craver, V., Smith, J.A., and Swami, N.S., 2014
  • Modeling the sustainability of a ceramic water filter intervention: Water Research, v. 49, p. 286-299 ABS Mellor, J.E., Abebe, L.S., Ehdaie, B., Dillingham, R., and Smith, J.A., 2014
  • Ceramic water filters impregnated with silver nanoparticles as a point-of-use water-treatment intervention for HIV-positive individuals in Limpopo Province, South Africa: A pilot study of technological performance & human health benefits. Journal of Water and Health, v. 12, no. 2, p. 288-300 (doi:10.2166/wh.2013.185). Abebe, L.S., Smith, J.A., Narkiweicz, S., Oyanedel-Craver, V., Conaway, M., A., Singo, A., Samie, A., Mojapelo, P., Brant, J., and Dillingham, R., 2014.
  • Incorporation of copper nanoparticles into paper for point-of-use water purification: Water Research, v. 63, p. 245-251 (DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.06.022. ABS Dankovich, T., and Smith, J.A., 2014
  • Porous ceramic tablet embedded with silver nanopatches for low-cost point-of-use water purification: Environmental Science & Technology: 10.1021/es503534c. Ehdaie, B., C. Krause and J. A. Smith, 2014
  • Inactivation of bacteria from contaminated streams in Limpopo, South Africa by silver- or copper-nanoparticle paper filters: Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, v. 2, p. 85-96, DOI: 10.1039/C5EW00188A Dankovich, T., Levine, J.S., Potgeiter, N., Dillingham, R., and Smith, J.A., 2015
  • Comparison of three point-of-use water treatment technologies in rural Guatemala: Journal of Environmental Engineering ABS Mellor, J.E., Kallman, E., Oyanedel-Craver, V., and Smith, J.A., 2015
  • Point-of-use removal of Cryptosporidium parvum from water: Independent effects of disinfection by silver nanoparticles and silver ions and by physical filtration in ceramic porous media: Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b02183. Abebe, L.S., Su, H-Y., Guerrant, R.L., Swami, N., and Smith, J.A., 2015
  • Performance and acceptance of novel silver-impregnated ceramic cubes for drinking water treatment in two field sites: Limpopo Province, South Africa and Dodoma region, Tanzania: Water, v. 8, no. 3, doi: 10.3390/w8030095. ABS Kahler, D.M., Koermer, N.T., Reichl, A.R., Samie, A., and Smith, J.A., 2016
  • Impact of Vegetation Management on Vegetated Roadsides and Their Performance as a Low-Impact-Development Practice for Linear Transportation Infrastructure: Transportation Research Record, DOI: 10.3141/2588-19. ABS Henderson, Derek, Smith, J.A., and Fitch, G.M., 2016
  • Challenges to sustainable safe drinking water: a case study of water quality and use across seasons in rural communities in Limpopo province, South Africa: Water, v. 10, no. 159 ABS Edokpayi, J.N., Rogawski, E.T., Kahler, D., Hill, C., Reynolds, C., Nyathi, E., Smith, J.A., Odiyo, J.O., Samie, A., Bessong, P., and Dillingham, R., 2018
  • Evaluation of a Silver-Embedded Ceramic Tablet as a Primary and Secondary Point-of-Use Water Purification Technology in Limpopo Province, S. Africa. PLOS ONE 12(1) ABS Ehdaie B, Rento CT, Son V, Turner SS, Samie A, Dillingham RA, and Smith, J.A., 2017
  • E. coli Inactivation by Metals and the Effects of Changes in Water Chemistry: Journal of Environmental Engineering, v. 145, no. 2 ABS Singh, R., Edokpayi, J., Odiyo, J., and Smith, J.A., 2019

Courses Taught

  • CE 3100 Water for the World
  • CE 5240 Groundwater Flow and Contaminant Transport