The aluminum industrial waste red mud was successfully utilized as a novel adsorbent for the removal of arsenic (As) ions from water. The arsenate (As (V)) adsorption efficacy of red mud nanoparticles was also investigated. Red mud nanoparticles were prepared by ball milling raw red mud for 10 h, yielding particles’ size of 20 nm on average. The As (V) adsorption on these nanoparticles strongly depended on the size of the nanoparticles. As (V) removal increased from 58 to 83\% by reducing the size of red mud particles from 200 to 20 nm. Detail kinetics and transport study confirmed the pseudo-second-order kinetic process which was governed by external mass transport. The Freundlich (and Langmuir) isotherms confirm that the arsenate adsorption capacity changes from 2.28 mg/g (1.84 mg/g) to 2.54 mg/g (1.96 mg/g) for reduction of particles from size 200 nm to 20 nm. Water filter columns made with red mud nanoparticles prepared by ball milling for 10 h showed better filtration performance than the filter packed with raw red mud. Both the hydraulic conductivity and the As (V) removal (8 mm/h and 61\% respectively) of influent 1 mg/L As (V) by red mud nanoparticles were greater than the raw red mud (3.2 mm/h and 54\%). The modified red mud column filters also exhibited a higher efficiency than the raw red mud filters to remove Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus from the water. Overall, this research shows that nanomaterials derived from aluminum processing waste can be a promising material for water filtration. © 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.