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Released On: October 29, 2004

Reclamation Provides $1.6 Million for Desalination Cooperative Research Agreements
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys announced today that Reclamation has provided more than $1.6 million for 15 desalination cooperative research agreements.

"Improving desalination technologies to make them more affordable and accessible is part of Secretary Norton's Water 2025 initiative," Keys said. "We expect this research to facilitate technological advancements and nurture innovations to enhance supplies and reduce the costs of current technologies."

The 15 cooperative research agreements have been awarded to local water utilities, universities, and private research companies across the country and represent a broad range of needed research in desalination and water re-use. There were nine research studies, four new research pilots, and two pilots renewed for more study.

For example, Riverton City, Utah, was awarded $46,877 for comparative testing of reverse osmosis and electrodialysis reversal for desalination of brackish groundwater, the product from which will eventually be added to the city's potable water supply. This research data will provide the city the necessary information to compare the two processes and will be widely beneficial.

All proposers, except for the universities, were required to provide at least a 50 percent cost share of their total project proposal. Even with the universities exempt, Reclamation was able to achieve a 50 percent cost-share with all the projects.

Following is a complete list of the 15 projects:

Colorado School of Mines (Colo.) will study treatment of produced waters, comparing membrane processes and capacitative deionization. The Reclamation share is $87,885, with a cost-share of $15,002.

El Paso Water Utilities (Texas) will study treatment processes that will increase water recovery from waters containing high concentrations of silica. The Reclamation share is $96,918, with a cost-share of $392,026.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga.) will do a fairly wide-ranging study of boron (a contaminant) occurrence and removal by reverse osmosis membranes. Little is currently known about boron's removal by reverse osmosis. The Reclamation share of this research is $94,387, with a cost-share of $37,000.

L'eau LLC in the second year of a pilot project that is studying DewVaporation. This is a unique thermal evaporation process that uses waste heat and inexpensive thin plastic materials to vaporize salt water. The cooling effect of vaporization is used to condense the vapor, while salt falls out the bottom of the chamber. The efficiency of the process is said to be such that seawater can be vaporized for the same energy cost as brackish well water, which makes this an attractive process for treating concentrate. The Reclamation share is $120,000, with a matching cost-share of $120,000.

New Jersey Institute of Technology (N.J.) proposed a pilot-scale test of Direct Contact Membrane Distillation. This is an extension of previous research sponsored by Reclamation. The Reclamation share of this research is $150,000, with a cost-share of $39,996.

Novaflux Technologies is in the second year of a pilot project that includes the design, fabrication and testing of a reverse osmosis system with a novel clean-in-place unit. This cleaning technology will be compared to traditional cleaning methods of membranes processing impaired waters. If successful, the new system will significantly extend membrane life and reduce replacement costs in reverse osmosis desalination plants. The Reclamation share is $118,813, with a cost-share of $119,413.

Moch & Associates, Inc. will update the existing WTCost, a cost-modeling program that is used by anyone developing desalination facilities and estimates the cost of development of a desalination facility. The work will add the capital and operating costs of thermal processes to the program. The program currently focuses only on membrane processes. The Reclamation share of this research is $84,815, with a cost-share of $92,805.

Portland State University (Ore.) will further develop software that models the dispersion of concentrate from a desalination plant into a body of water. This was originally developed by the principle investigator under Reclamation sponsorship. This phase will focus on design and optimization of the outfall to ensure efficient operation of multiport diffusers. The Reclamation share of this research is $99,020.

Reiss Environmental, Inc. will conduct a long term pilot-scale test comparing microfiltration with conventional media filtration as a pretreatment for the Tampa Bay seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant. This long term pilot-scale test will provide information about the validity of the pretreatment comparison throughout the year and will include seasonal variations that can occur. The Reclamation share is $150,000, with a cost-share of $330,453.

Riverton City (Utah) will conduct comparative testing of reverse osmosis and electrodialysis reversal for desalination of brackish groundwater, the product of which will eventually be added to the city's potable water supply. This research will provide the city with information needed to compare the two processes and also will be beneficial to Reclamation and other potential users of brackish water desalination. The Reclamation share is $46,877, with a matching cost-share of $46,877.

Stanford University (Calif.) will do a research study on the molecular basis of membrane fouling. Reclamation expects this study to elucidate some of the problems caused by membrane fouling associated with microbiological species. The Reclamation share is $100,000, with a cost-share of $43,970.

University of Hawaii (Hawaii) will test a solar and wind-powered reverse osmosis unit for water desalination. This test is important because there are a number of locations where a small, reliable seawater desalination unit powered by renewable energy is needed. The Reclamation share is $86,212 and the cost-share is $36,411.

University of South Carolina (S.C.) will do a pilot-scale test of a zero-discharge desalination system that the university developed and tested component parts previously under Reclamation funding. This project will focus on beneficial uses of concentrate. The Reclamation share is $150,000.

University of Texas at Austin (Texas) has proposed to develop new fouling resistant membranes for use in treatment of produced waters. Oil emulsions and heavy metals contained in produced waters provide major challenges for conventional commercial reverse osmosis membranes. However, the current requirement to dispose of large volumes of produced waters productively requires a solution to these challenges. The Reclamation share is $92,387, with a cost-share of $12,171.

Western Environmental Management will conduct a pilot test of membrane technology for recovery of low salinity product water from produced water. The unit will contain ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. Previous efforts in treating produced waters have demonstrated that reverse osmosis membranes are badly fouled by the organics and suspended solids in the feed water. If successful, which can be determined only by field testing, it will considerably simplify disposal of produced waters and provide some water for beneficial uses. The Reclamation share is $150,000 and a cost-share of $236,926.

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