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The Water Desalination Research & Development Program Newsletter - No. 10 - Spring 1998


The primary goal of the Water Desalination Research & Development (DesalR&D) Program is to develop more cost-effective, technologically efficient, and implementable means to desalinate water. This goal is accomplished by a combination of in-house applied research and demonstration projects; partnerships with the private sector and academia for basic and applied research projects; and piloting research projects with the private sector, academia, municipalities, and communities. For more information about the DesalR&D program, contact acting program manager, Kevin Price, at 303-445-2260, or visit the DesalR&D web site at: http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/water/research/DWPR/.


A variety of in-house research projects received funding from the DesalR&D program beginning October 1997. Following is a listing of these various in-house projects including a brief project description:

Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA).- This funding provides technical support to AMWUA in its efforts to evaluate potable water membrane treatment processes suitable for use with Reclamation's Central Arizona Project (CAP) water. The evaluation addresses concentrate disposal issues on a regional basis.

CAP Water Treatment Study.- This project provides on-going technical support to the City of Tucson in its efforts to use its water resources in the most efficient manner possible. The membrane process work uses Reclamation's Mobile Treatment Plant, and the technical support includes a review of concentrate disposal methods. Excellent cooperation and collaboration are being achieved among Reclamation, the city, and several local agencies and interest groups.

DesalNet.- This on-going project will result in a searchable CD ROM containing abstracts of Office of Saline Water (OSW) and Office of Water Research Technology reports on desalination and water treatment. American Water Works Association (AWWA) is collaborating on this project, and the CD ROM will include all desalting abstracts in the AWWA database.

Desalting Handbook for Planners.- This funding allows for an update to the 1979 edition written by the OSW. The revision will cover all the current desalting processes, pre- and post-treatment, limitations and problems, relative costs, desalting applications, cost estimating, and other areas. The update is being accomplished by AEPI/RosTek, Inc.

Development of Techniques for Drying Thin Film Composite (TFC) Elements.- This research tests TFC elements from various manufacturers in an effort to establish a satisfactory protocol for element drying, which obviates use of potentially toxic or hazardous storage solutions. The work includes wet testing to obtain a baseline measurement of performance, followed by drying, retesting, redrying, and one final wet test.

Economic Analysis of Membrane Systems.- This work studies various water treatment processes in their entirety under different waste disposal scenarios in order to identify the aspects that have the most effect on cost. Tasks include an analysis of desalting technologies to identify key improvements to make them more cost effective and development of computer software to aid in comparing different treatment scenarios, including pretreatment and waste disposal options.

Element Integrity Testing.- This funding supports American Standards for Testing Materials (ASTM) in preparation and development of standards for ensuring membrane module integrity as it relates to the effectiveness of an element to remove microorganisms. The work includes a literature search to determine methods to use for membrane element integrity testing, participation in ASTM sub-committee meetings, development and implementation of a test program to measure integrity, and pilot scale testing of the methods at the Water Quality Improvement Center (WQIC) in Yuma, AZ.

Evaluating Nanofiltration (NF) for Disinfection Byproduct (DBP) Control.- This research evaluates the bench-scale testing of a number of NF membranes for DBP control using a rapid bench-scale membrane test unit. The research includes a number of newly developed NF membranes, to determine the effects of some key parameters on membrane performance and evaluate the influence of fouling and compaction on water flux.

In-line Settling Tube (IST).- This project will test the IST unit built under previous funding. The research compares the IST with jar testing to determine its effectiveness in the removal of total suspended solids.

Interagency Consortium for Desalination and Membrane Separation Research.- This funding provides technical support of the Consortium, which consists of representatives from many Federal agencies who are involved in desalination or membrane separation research. The primary goals of the Consortium are to prevent Federal duplication of efforts, pool limited Federal research funding, identify future research needs, and allow technology transfer of research results.

Membrane Manual.- This on-going project will result in the publication of the second edition of Reclamation's Desalting and Water Treatment Membrane Manual. The manual will provide an overview of microfiltration (MF), ultrafiltration (UF), reverse osmosis (RO)/NF, and electrodialysis (ED) processes as they are used for water treatment. The manual also discusses pretreatment processes, waste disposal, cleaning and storage, process design, product review, and estimation of costs of membrane treatment. The manual is currently in final review.

Membrane Transport Cell.- This project will build a membrane transport apparatus suitable for very accurately measuring the transport of water from a compartment containing "solute-free" water into one containing water solution that is separated by a membrane impermeable to the solute. This project will allow better characterization of membrane properties. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Lockheed Martin will collaborate on this work.

Monitoring Biofouling in Membrane Systems.- In collaboration with the Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), this work will result in the development of state-of-the-art biofouling monitoring strategies for improving the operation of RO systems. The monitoring methods will initially be assessed at the bench-scale in the CBE labs, then in Reclamation's Denver pilot plant lab and in the field, possibly at the WQIC.

National Water Research Institute (NWRI) Cooperative Agreement.- This on-going agreement with NWRI provides technical support in the review, selection, funding, and monitoring of new technologies, cost reductions, and water quality improvements of desalting and water treatment research studies conducted by universities, private industry, and public agencies.

Natural Organic Matter (NOM) Rejection by and Fouling of NF and UF Membranes.- This research defines the applicability of bench-scale tests in simulating NOM rejection and fouling at pilot and larger scales. The work includes testing of two source waters, Colorado River surface water at Yuma, AZ, and Boulder Creek surface water in Colorado, for comparison of bench-scale versus pilot scale test results. Source water testing is accomplished in collaboration with the University of Colorado, University of Illinois, and NIST.

Navajo Photovoltaic (PV)/ED Reversal (EDR) Desalting.- This on-going project continues to test and evaluate the performance of the PV/EDR desalting and ultraviolet disinfection system installed at Spencer Valley on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Gallup, NM. Preliminary findings show that the PV/EDR system can desalt and disinfect brackish, uranium-contaminated groundwater for less than $0.014/gallon based on a 15-year life at 8% interest.

Paradox Valley Membrane Project Support.- This funding provides technical support, including process analysis and autopsy of membrane elements, in the investigation of a sulfate removal membrane process for use at Reclamation's Paradox Valley, CO, plant. The plant takes brine from a shallow aquifer (almost saturated sodium chlorine with some sulfate) and disposes of it by deep well injection to prevent its entry into the Colorado River. The problem is that in high concentrations, sulfate reacts with limestone in the stratum, potentially plugging the well. This research will demonstrate the reliability and determine the costs of the process.

Pojoaque Pueblo Nitrate Research.- This on-going work provides technical support in the study of nitrate removal treatment techniques suitable for the Pueblo Indian Reservation in Utah. The work is in collaboration with Utah State University and will conduct a comprehensive analysis of water supplies derived from shallow groundwater sources, test alternative monitoring procedures, and conduct preliminary testing of mitigation measures to reduce health risks.

Renovation of Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) Skids.- This work involves the renovation of the desalting and cleaning skids previously built and used for the EMWD saline wetlands study. Once renovated, the equipment will serve as a second RO test unit in Reclamation's Denver pilot plant lab.

Sludge Volume Reduction Study.- This research will develop practical methods for reducing the volume of solids in the Yuma Desalting Plant sludge disposal beds through the study of crystal formation and sizes using a scanning electron microscope and analysis of various chemical processes for sludge treatment.

Water Treatment Primer for Communities in Need (primer).- This on-going project continues efforts on the primer, which is a collection of fact sheets on various water contaminants. New fact sheets will be developed including arsenic, fluoride, radioactivity, and zinc. Existing fact sheets will be updated with pertinent current data.

Wind-Powered EDR.- This project tests and evaluates a low power EDR desalting system operating off wind energy to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of using wind energy and solar power to produce fresh water from brackish water at remote sites with no access to grid power. The testing is conducted at the National Wind Technology Center near Golden, CO.


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.