Highly selective materials and effective technologies are needed to meet the increasingly stronger drinking water standards for targeted ionic species. Inorganic ion exchangers based on individual and mixed-metal hydrous oxides (or mixed adsorbents that contain inorganic ion exchangers in their composition) are adsorptive materials that are capable of lowering the concentrations of anionic contaminants, such as H 2AsO 4 -, H 3AsO 3, F -, Br -, BrO 3 -, HSeO 4 -, HSeO 3 - and H 3BO 3, to 10 μg/L or less. To achieve a higher selectivity towards arsenate, a new ion exchanger based on Mg-Al hydrous oxides was developed by a novel, cost-effective and environmentally friendly synthesis method via a non-traditional (alkoxide-free) sol-gel approach. The exceptional adsorptive capacity of the Mg-Al hydrous oxides towards H 2AsO 4 - (up to 200 mg[As]/gdw) is due to the high affinity of this sorbent towards arsenate (steep equilibrium isotherms) and its fast adsorption kinetics. Because of the mesoporous (as determined by N 2 adsorption and SEM) and layered (as determined by XRD and FTIR) structure of the ion-exchange material as well as the abundance of anion exchange sites (as determined by XPS and potentiometric titration) on its surface the material demonstrated very competitive (or very high) removal capacity towards other targeted anions, including fluoride, bromide, bromate, selenate, selenite, and borate. © 2011 IWA Publishing.