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The Water Desalination Research & Development Program Newsletter - No. 9 - Winter 1997


Reclamation began a new program in October 1997, titled the Water Desalination Research & Development (DesalR&D) Program. The primary goal of the DesalR&D program is to develop more cost-effective, technologically efficient, and implementable means to desalinate water.

As many of our readers know, Reclamation has been managing a research program titled the Water Treatment Technology Program (WTTP) since 1992, which had the primary goal of developing cost effective water treatment processes. Federal funding for the WTTP concluded in September 1997, when funding for the DesalR&D program began. WTTP projects were accomplished through a combination of in-house research efforts and through cooperative agreements with non-Federal entities. Since inception of the WTTP, many important accomplishments have been realized, most of which are documented on the WTTP website at: http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/water/

Looking toward the future and to ensure continuing achievements in these desalting and water treatment areas, former Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois) drafted a new authorization for a new program. The DesalR&D program was authorized by Congress under the Water Desalination Act (Act) of 1996. The Act authorized program funding beginning October 1997 for a 6-year period. To start the program, funding was appropriated at $3.7 million for fiscal year 1998. With the debut of the DesalR&D program, the majority of the efforts previously addressed by the WTTP will now be accomplished by the DesalR&D program. However, currently funded WTTP contracts and projects will be completed and documented in this newsletter.

The two principal thrusts of the program are: (1) perform research on desalination technologies and related issues to push the state of the art forward (research and studies), and (2) conduct development and demonstration activities to test technological advancements, to confirm economics, and to gain public acceptance (development projects). Initially, research and studies will be accomplished (1) through award of grants and contracts with non-Federal entities and through Federal laboratory research efforts, (2) using a competitive, merit-reviewed process for awards, (3) using a recommended cost-sharing of 25- to 50-percent Federal contribution, and (4) a maximum Federal funding up to $5 million per year. Within the first 3 years, Reclamation is to submit a report to Congress recommending demonstration and development projects to further evaluate successful research findings. These projects will be (1) accomplished using a recommended cost-sharing of 25- to 50-percent Federal contribution, and (2) Federally-funded up to $25 million over 6 years. The DesalR&D program is divided into the following emphasis areas or tasks:

  • Task A - Membrane Process Research & Development Studies
  • Task B - Thermal Process Research & Development Studies
  • Task C - Non-Traditional/Alternative Desalination Process Research & Studies
  • Task D - Water Recycling and Reuse
  • Task E - Ancillary and Economic Improvements
  • Task F - Concentrate Issues
  • Task G - Testing of Laboratory Scale and Pilot Systems
  • Task H - Technology Transfer
  • Task I - Design, Construction, and Testing of Plants and Modules

This newsletter is a technology transfer effort and will continue to provide public access to all information gained under the DesalR&D program. Information on the first solicitation for proposals will be available within the next few weeks. For more information about the DesalR&D program and future solicitations, contact Kevin Price at 303-445-2260, or visit the DesalR&D website at: http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/water/research/DWPR/.


Several new contracts were recently awarded under fiscal year 1997 WTTP funding. Although funded by the WTTP, completion of the following contracts will be documented in this newsletter:

Hydranautics will study "Membrane Fouling, Cleaning, and Viral Challenges Using ESPA-FREE Membrane Modules for Wastewater Reclamation." This study will examine Hydranautics new ESPA-FREE packaging configuration for spiral wound elements. It consists of individual encapsulation of ultra low-pressure membrane elements.

Science Applications International Corp. and VARI Power Co. will conduct "VARI-ROTM Direct Drive Engine Study." This study will determine the technical and economic feasibility of adding a unique direct drive engine to the low-energy VARI-ROTM pump and energy recovery system study currently being funded.

The University of Arizona will study "Halophyte Crops and a Sand-Bed Solar Evaporator to Reduce and Recycle Industrial, Desalination, and Agriculture Brines." This study will develop the best management practices for halophytes and a sand-bed solar evaporator for disposal of high total dissolved solids brine.

The City of San Diego will study "Membrane Bioreactors (MBR) for Water Purification." This study will result in an evaluation of the MBR application, including a literature search on MBR performance in cases where it is used prior to reverse osmosis (RO) and for wastewater treatment, a world-wide survey of existing full-scale MBR, a cost analysis for the process, and development of a preliminary pilot plant program and design. A portion of this work will be conducted through the Aqua 2000 Research Center in San Diego.

The University of California, Berkeley, will study "Algal Bacterial Selenium Removal System for Treatment of Irrigation Drainage Water." This funding will allow continued operation of an existing demonstration-scale Algal-Bacterial Selenium Removal Facility near Firebaugh, CA, for the purpose of optimization and evaluation of this technology and thus to attain higher nitrate and selenium removal.

The University of Missouri, Columbia, will study "Reduction of Iron Fouling in Groundwater Aerators." This study will investigate methods to alleviate fouling of aerator packings by iron precipitates, thereby reducing operational costs of treating groundwater and thus allowing development of previously unused groundwater sources.

The University of Texas at El Paso will study "Salinity and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) Removal Using Nanofiltration (NF)." This study will evaluate the feasibility of using a dual membrane filtration system to treat Rio Grande water in both the irrigation and non-irrigation seasons, thereby decreasing concentrations of disinfection byproducts, lowering hardness, and making use of the currently unusable saline winter flows.

Selective Environmental Technologies, Inc., will study "Removal and Destruction of Nitrate from Home Water Supplied by Wells, Using Electrochemical Ion Exchange." This study hopes to develop a low-cost treatment technology, providing electrochemical destruction of nitrate ions from drinking water supplied by private wells.

Desalination Systems, Inc., will study "New Design Feed Channel Spacer in Spiral Wound Elements for Pretreatment Cost Reduction." This study will determine the cost savings and effectiveness of using a backwashable cartridge filter as pretreatment of municipal wastewater prior to using an RO/NF system with a parallel feed spacer. Pilot testing will be conducted at the Aqua 2000 Research Center.


Water from Water is published by Reclamation's Water Treatment Engineering and Research Group - Susan Martella, Editor. For more information about the DesalR&D program, contact Kevin Price at: Bureau of Reclamation, 86-69000, PO Box 25007, Denver CO 80225; phone (303) 445-2260; or e-mail a message to MPrice@usbr.gov.