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Released On: November 28, 2005

Reclamation Awards $1.7 Million for Desalination Research
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John Keys announced today that Reclamation has awarded more than $1.7 million for 16 desalination research cooperative agreements from Fiscal Year 2005 funding. Including the matching contributions, the total investment in desalination research is over $6 million.

"Developing new and efficient desalination technologies is a significant aspect of Secretary Norton's Water 2025 initiative," Keys said. "This research will help facilitate new desalination technologies and nurture innovations to enhance existing water supplies and reduce the costs of currently available technologies."

The cooperative research agreements were awarded from the FY 2005 appropriation to water utilities, universities, and private companies across the country and represent a broad range of needed research in desalination and water reuse.

For example, one problem in desalinating water is what to do with the desalination wastewater. The Eastern Municipal Water District of Perris, Calif., was awarded $99,989 to evaluate and select processes for a zero-liquid discharge system. This research will not only help this water district solve its desalination wastewater disposal issues, but will provide useful information to others experiencing the same problem.

All recipients, except for the universities, are required to provide at least a 50 percent cost share of their total project proposal. Even with the universities exempted, Reclamation was able to achieve a greater than 50 percent total cost-share for the projects.

Following is a complete list of all 16 projects:

Eastern Municipal Water District (Calif.) will evaluate and select available processes for a zero-liquid discharge system. Even though the district is located not far from the Pacific Ocean, it has a problem with desalination wastewater disposal. This research will evaluate a number of possible means of concentrate disposal in a real-world setting. The Reclamation share is $99,989, with a cost-share of $192,062.

Heat Transfer Research (Texas) will use computer simulations to study reduced membrane contamination potential by Tailored Fluid/Structure Interaction. Membranes are used in the desalination process to remove materials in the water without the use of chemicals. This research will look at a specific way to reduce the potential of these membranes from becoming contaminated thus reducing cleaning of the membranes, increasing the life-span of the membrane, and reducing the overall cost of desalination. The Reclamation share is $10,000, with a cost-share of $30,000.

Hydranautics (Calif.) will investigate the use of dendrimers, a polymer, to enhance selective separation by nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes. In some desalination applications, a number of minor components, such as boron and nitrate, have to be removed to meet water quality requirements. This research will study whether it is efficient to disperse dendrimers, an absorbent, for particular materials into the water, where it will attract specific components and then be captured by the membranes instead of developing a membrane for each minor component. The Reclamation share is $72,200, with a cost-share of $72,200.

MWH Americas (Calif.) will conduct third-party performance evaluations on newly developed membrane bioreactors for reclamation of municipal wastewater. Membrane bioreactors are systems that contain biological or other items in them that break down waste and use membranes to separate out the waste in the water. In addition, the use of reverse osmosis systems following membrane bioreactors will be evaluated and the cost estimates for the membrane bioreactors and reverse osmosis process will be updated and refined. The project is expected to provide a considerable update on the status of membrane bioreactors. The Reclamation share is $99,960, with a cost-share of $458,224.

Texas Tech University (Texas) will study wind power and water desalination technology integration. They will investigate and quantify system designs and economics of integrated wind-water systems and will focus on municipal, ranch and farm, and industrial applications. Reclamation's share and total project cost is $99,970.

University of Houston (Texas) will study electrocoagulation pretreatment, using electricity to remove contaminants instead of chemicals, for microfiltration. Earlier studies showed that electrocoagulation was an effective method of pretreatment for integrated membrane systems using laboratory waters. This study will evaluate the process using natural surface waters. The Reclamation share is $99,881, with a cost-share of $47,900.

University of Illinois (Ill.) will evaluate membrane foulants, substances that reduce the effectiveness of membranes, in seawater reverse osmosis desalination. By better understanding these substances in the water, better control strategies can be developed. The Reclamation share is $98,470, with a cost-share of $26,209.

University of Massachusetts (Mass.) will do a feasibility study of wind powered desalination for a community scale desalination plant. The town of Hull, Mass., is considering use of a seawater desalination plant primarily powered by wind power. The results will provide a study of desalination powered by a renewable energy source based on a real situation. The Reclamation share and total project cost is $99,914.

University of Toledo (Ohio) will investigate using a new ultrafiltration membrane in the pretreatment for membrane desalination. In current uses, the ultrafiltration membranes are prone to fouling. If successful, this polyethylene glycol monomenthacrylate enhanced cellulose acetate membrane will produce a non-fouling or low-fouling pretreatment. The Reclamation share is $92,411, with a cost-share of $74,467.

Water Consultants International (Wis.) will study barriers to thermal desalination, the process of heating water to steam and then recapturing it, in the United States. While most of the world uses thermal processes for desalination, only reverse osmosis appears to be considered for large seawater desalination projects in the United States. The Reclamation share is $35,037, with a cost-share of $38,112.

Yale University (Conn.) will look at the optimization of using chemical cleaning of organic-fouled reverse osmosis membranes. Previous research has identified mechanisms of organic fouling and basic mechanisms of cleaning. This project will assess the applicability of various cleaning chemicals with respect to cleaning efficiency, cleaning cost, and environmental impact. It also will include the development of a methodology to select the optimal combination of chemical cleaning agents based on foulant concentrations. The Reclamation share and total project cost is $97,560.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Calif.) will develop a 40 gallon per-minute seawater desalination pilot project to focus on the technical feasibility and cost of using water discharged from an existing power generating station's condenser. Knowledge gained from this pilot project will directly assist others in the design and operation of full-scale desalination facilities. The total project cost is $2.4 million with Reclamation's contribution of $150,000.

Municipal Water District of Orange County (Calif.) will conduct a demonstration project at the Dana Point Ocean Desalination Project to address the technical, economical and operational feasibility of Horizontal Directional Drilling/slant well technology for construction of water supply systems for ocean desalination plants sited near the mouths of streams or rivers. The total project cost is $1,458,107 with Reclamation's contribution of $360,000.

New Jersey Institute of Technology (N.J.) received funding for the second-year of pilot scale studies for direct contact membrane distillation-based desalination processes. Direct contact membrane distillation is a process where warmer supply water flows over a membrane with cooler treated water on the other side. This process has a considerable potential for commercialization if certain obstacles are overcome. The total project cost is $309,811, including Reclamation's second year contribution of $119,815.

University of South Carolina (S.C.) received funding for the second year of pilot testing of zero-discharge seawater desalination. This process is based on the premise that seawater has several valuable minerals and chemicals, but the value of these minerals and chemicals can be realized only if their separation from seawater is economically and technically feasible. Previous studies have shown potential. The total project cost is $270,000, including Reclamation's second year contribution of $120,000.

Western Environmental Management (N.M.) received funding for the second year of pilot testing of membrane technology for the recovery of water produced in oil and gas mining. This "Produced water" is generated in abundance in the process of removing oil and gas from the ground. The verification of technology and operating data for each unit is being measured at an oil field injection well site. Feasibility capital and maintenance costs will be developed. The total project cost is $471,925, including Reclamation's second year contribution of $84,999.

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