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The Water Desalination Research & Development Program Newsletter - No. 15 - Winter 1999


By the end of fiscal year 1999, September 30, 1999, the Desalination & Water Purification Research Program had awarded fifteen cost-shared financial assistance agreements or contract extensions for a total research effort of $2.33 million, with Reclamation's contribution at $1.08 million. Sixty-four preproposals from small businesses, industry, academia, and utilities were received and evaluated. Twenty-five full proposals were subsequently received and evaluated. We wish to thank all proposers for their excellent proposals and regret that many more contracts with larger dollar amounts could not be funded. Final reports from the seventeen projects contracted at the end of fiscal year 1998, September 30, 1998, are currently being received, with the majority expected to be complete by March 2000. Initial results are very exciting and some would logically lead to pilot-scale testing and demonstration. A future newsletter will describe these accomplishments.

Following is a list of agreements and extensions awarded in fiscal year 1999 by task, including the name of the principal investigator, the company or academic affiliate, the contract amounts (total and Reclamation contribution, respectively), and a short project abstract:


James Green and Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California will study Evaluation of Precipitative Fouling for Colorado River Water Desalination Using Reverse Osmosis (total project $310,564; Reclamation's contribution $98,436). This project focuses on scale control. MWD has associated silica scale with formation of aluminum silicate, not traditionally considered a scale-forming material. Theoretical work will be conducted by UCLA. Work will be conducted on bench- and pilot-scales to determine optimum chemical control for all potential scales. Research units include plate-and-frame test cells, a two-element RO unit, and an MF pretreatment unit working on Colorado River water.

Mark Clark and University of Illinois will study Visualization of Colloidal Phenomena Near Membrane Surfaces (total project $103,403; Reclamation's contribution $87,635). The project objectives are to develop methods that can be used for direct real-time visualization of particle motions, boundary layer dynamics, and cake formation and structure in the region of membrane surfaces during MF and UF of colloidal suspensions. The first technique will use fluorescent microscopy to monitor particle concentrations and velocities in the concentration boundary layer. The second technique will use confocal microscopy to develop three-dimensional images of cake layers formed along membrane surfaces.

Menachem Elimelech and Yale University will study Optimal Operational Conditions for Prevention of Membrane Colloidal and Organic Fouling (total project $123,692; Reclamation's contribution $80,623). The research objectives are to conduct a systematic bench-scale investigation to determine the interrelationship among the solution chemistry, permeate flux, and crossflow velocity in controlling RO and NF membrane fouling; determine the optimal operational conditions (initial flux and crossflow velocity) for a given raw water to prevent fouling; and develop a mathematical model that uses these concepts to optimize the operational parameters of a membrane unit.

Amy Childress and University of Nevada at Reno will continue the study of Hydrophilicity of Polymeric RO & NF Membranes: Implications to Membrane Fouling - Phase II (total project, phase II $48,676; Reclamation's contribution $48,676). Extensive research has been performed on contact angle characterization of UF membranes, but little work has been done on the characterization of RO or NF membranes. In previous investigations, hydrophilicity has been approximated by contact angle measurements. This continued research proposes a method for determining actual hydrophilicity by performing a series of contact angle measurements using polar and apolar liquids. The continuing goal is to characterize the hydrophilicity of several membranes and to relate hydrophilicity to the fouling potential of the membranes.


Richard McCormack and Thermal Energy Storage, Inc., will study Investigation of High Freezing Temperature, Zero Ozone, and Zero Global Warming Potential Clathrate Formers for Desalination (total project: $203,759; Reclamation's contribution $100,000). This project was originally intended for award with fiscal year 1998 funds but was delayed and ultimately awarded in May 1999 with fiscal year 1999 funds. This project is designed to research high-temperature clathrate formers and to test and evaluate the performance of the freeze desalination process. Higher temperature clathrate formers will improve the economics of the process by reducing the size of the heat exchange surfaces needed and will extend the applicability of the system to regions where cold deep-ocean water is not readily available. Progress to date includes designing a new wash column made of plastic and building a test rig for the experimental tests. The laboratory work required to characterize other candidate clathrate formers has also been completed.


James Beckman and Arizona State University will study Carrier-Gas Enhanced Atmospheric Pressure Desalination (total project $88,676; Reclamation's contribution $50,000). This project will focus on additional improvement of a low-cost humidification-dehumidification process known as dewvaporation. Novel methods will be used to improve the efficiency of the process and, if feasible, a 1000 gal/day pilot unit will be constructed and tested. The project goals also include significant advancement toward commercialization of the technology.

K.K. Sirkar and New Jersey Institute of Technology will study Novel Membrane and Device for Direct Contact Membrane Distillation-Based Desalination Process (total project $60,857; Reclamation's contribution $49,988). This research will focus on reducing the cost of the direct membrane distillation process. The primary goals are to improve the boundary layer heat transfer coefficients and achieve production of a permanently non-wettable hollow fiber membrane with improved water vapor flux characteristics.


Eric Rosenblum and the City of San Jose will study Comparison of Treatment Methods for Partial Desalting of Tertiary Effluents (total project $296,394; Reclamation's contribution $50,000). This project will pilot-test the treatment of treated secondary effluent by EDR and MF/RO at the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant for a parallel evaluation of both technologies. The target TDS is 400 mg/L from the feed water that ranges from between 800-900 mg/L.

C.P. Huang and University of Delaware will continue the study of Treatment of Wastewater for Water Reuse by a Catalytic Sonochemical Process: Phase II, Pilot-Plant Study (total project $96,047; Reclamation's contribution $50,000). This project will focus on optimization of the ultrasound treatment technique previously studied. A pilot-plant will be built to demonstrate a lower intensity ultrasound treatment process.


Byard Wood and University of Nevada at Reno will study Improving Thermodynamics and Economic Efficiencies of Desalination Plants (total project $60,771; Reclamation's contribution $39,944). This project will develop a procedure to evaluate the minimum work input associated with desalination, and express it in terms of exergy to enable comparison between membrane and thermal processes on an equitable basis. Based on Second Law principles, the analysis will be authoritative to end the current dispute and confusion about the minimum work input. Guidelines will be provided for increased efficiency potential for each desalting technology.


Mike Mickley and Mickley and Associates will continue and expand on the study of Membrane Concentrate Disposal: Practices and Regulations. The fiscal year 1998 agreement was modified to expand the scope of work to include the development of cost models for various concentrate disposal methods (total project, modification $107,041; Reclamation's contribution $48,685). The continuing goal of the study is to provide the desalination industry with a valuable reference source focusing on characterizing and documenting concentrate disposal practices and regulations on a state-by-state basis.

Andrew Swift and University of Texas at El Paso will study Zero Discharge Waste Brine Management for Desalination Plants (total project $78,192; Reclamation's contribution $49,500). This project will evaluate and optimize an evaporation/condensation device known as the Brine Concentrator and Recovery System (BCRS). The BCRS consists of a 40-ft long spray evaporation chamber supporting a 30-ft high condenser tower for water recovery. The feed stream to the BCRS is brackish concentrate from a desalination process. The BCRS utilizes a low-grade heat source, nozzles, and a fan to enhance the evaporation and condensation to produce salt and water.


Paul Gagliardo and the City of San Diego continue the study of Membrane Bioreactors for Water Purification-Phase II (total project $428,143; Reclamation's contribution $120,000). The City is conducting a side-by-side comparison of two membrane bioreactors (MBR) from different manufacturers: ZENON Municipal Systems and Mitsubishi Rayon Corp. The City will finalize testing in the nitrification/denitrification part of the program. Peaking studies will be performed and then both systems will be shut down and reconfigured for nitrification testing only. Cleaning of both systems is currently being done about every 3 months.

Ali Dabiri and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) continue the study of VARI-ROTM Desalting Pilot Plant Advancement Project (total project $235,286; Reclamation's contribution $120,000). SAIC is designing, building, and testing a 5-hp direct drive engine (DDE) system that will be coupled with their existing VARI-ROTM pump and energy recovery pilot system, designated EMD (electric motor drive). The final designs for the manufacture of the DDE unit components are complete, as well as upgrade and revision of the existing EMD system components and layout to accommodate coupling to the new DDE.

Funding levels for fiscal year 2000 will not allow award of Pilot-Scale Systems agreements. Therefore, for privacy reasons the proposals received as a result of the recent solicitation are being held by the Grants and Cooperative Agreements Officer, and proposers will be notified in writing as soon as possible. Inquiries regarding the proposals may be directed to Diana Mulligan at 303-445-2436.


American Water Works Association (AWWA) will continue the completion of the CD ROM: DESALNET, which is described in detail below. Reclamation's contribution this fiscal year is $86,000 with AWWA providing various in-kind services.


The program's funding has been declining since the initial $3.7 million in fiscal year 1998. To slow this decline, Reclamation has included in its budget an additional $1.0 million for fiscal year 2001 over our current budget of $1.3 million for fiscal year 2000. We continue to work within the budgetary process to raise the fiscal year 2001 increase, as well as increase the next budget for fiscal year 2002. The program has been fortunate to have a strong constituency working with Congress to increase the Presidential request each year.

As a result of the decreased budget for fiscal year 2000, we will not be preparing or competing a solicitation package for cost-shared research and studies. We are also canceling the fiscal year 2000 Pilot-Scale Systems solicitation package issued in July 1999. While many excellent ideas are available for laboratory and bench-scale testing, pilot-scale testing, and even demonstration, it is necessary to focus on finishing the work from fiscal years 1998 and 1999, with the limited fiscal year 2000 budget. We will continue with the fiscal year 2000 Partnerships solicitation, which is discussed below. We will also meet our commitments made last year with various organizations, including refinement of the American Desalting Association's (ADA) cost model; a workshop with the ADA; a membrane workshop co-sponsored with the American Water Works Research Foundation; and a Pore Size Characterization Methodology and Standards for UF Membranes research project with the North American Membrane Society, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and various industrial sponsors.

We are looking forward to an ideal budget of $7.0 million which would support approximately twenty cost-shared laboratory and bench-scale research studies, ten cost-shared pilot-scale studies, and two demonstration-phase projects.


A fiscal year 2000 solicitation package for funding of Partnerships financial assistance agreements was issued in August with awards scheduled for December of this year (see Summer 1999). It is anticipated that award of two financial assistance agreements will be made, with funding levels at $60 thousand per year for fiscal years 2000 - 2002. The goal of the Partnerships task is to establish cooperations with water research organizations for the purpose of co-funding others to perform research. Cost-shared awards to water research organizations allows program involvement in an expanded arena of research and provides a unique opportunity to leverage program funds. Proposals to cost-share basic and applied research were sought from responsible water research organizations dedicated to creating new sources of water through research and technology which met the variety of qualifications stated in the solicitation. Proposals were received and are being reviewed. A final decision regarding awards will be made within the next few months.


The development of desalination technologies has a proud heritage from within the Department of the Interior. The creation of the Office of Saline Water (OSW) in 1952, followed by the Office of Water Research and Technology (OWRT) in 1974, led to the majority of significant findings in the development of desalination, especially in membrane desalination. During their existence, OSW/OWRT spent more than $1.4 billion in today's dollars and produced more than 1100 technical reports. This literature embodies the technical foundation of today's desalination technology. Likewise, Reclamation and the AWWA, since 1902 and 1881, respectively, have been leaders in water resources management and safe drinking water supplies in the U.S. and abroad. Jointly produced by Reclamation and AWWA, DESALNET is the only CD ROM database of its kind which ties together the wealth of desalination and advanced water treatment technology information available. The September 1999 release of DESALNET provides over 4000 searchable abstracts. Contents include abstracts of all OSW/OWRT reports, AWWA references regarding desalination and advanced water treatment technology, other desalination and advanced water treatment technology references available in literature, as well as full text of seven selected OSW/OWRT reports and thirty-one of Reclamation's program reports.

DESALNET is a continually evolving database and will be updated annually as funding allows. Future releases will include full text additions of all OSW/OWRT reports; new Reclamation reports; American Desalting Association, National Water Supply Improvement Association, and Water Supply Improvement Association conference proceedings; new AWWA materials; and new articles added to the desalination literature. Updates will also include abstracts of International Desalination Association and International Desalination and Environmental Association conference proceedings.

The impetus for the development of DESALNET stemmed from the desire and need to centralize the location of desalination literature. The OSW/OWRT reports were very difficult to access through literature searches; therefore, a large portion of the technical information remained in obscurity, possibly leading to duplication of research efforts. In addition, a significant number of Reclamation reports, journal publications, and conference proceedings were available, but not in a central location, much less a digital format. Today's trends in desalination and advanced water treatment technology ensure that DESALNET will be a tremendous asset to the water treatment community. Further, as a result of the current emphasis on waterborne pathogens and public health, public and private sectors have shown renewed interest in membrane technologies for these water treatment applications. Indeed, international interest in desalting technologies is growing as water supplies worldwide continue to be overburdened. As previously mentioned, desalting remains one of very few limited methods to increase these water supplies.

DESALNET provides the user with portable, easy access to a wealth of desalination and advanced water treatment technology information. DESALNET places the complete history, as well as recent accomplishments, in desalination and advanced water treatment technology at your finger tips. The collective information in DESALNET is not available in any other format or in any other single location. To purchase DESALNET from AWWA, contact Susan Martella at 303-445-2257. The cost for the September 1999 release is $125. Costs for future releases are yet to be established.


Many of the program's constituents have commented on the name of the Water Desalination Research & Development Program. They have correctly pointed out that the program is responsible for developing cost-effective technologies for water purification as well as desalination. To more accurately reflect the program's goals and authorization, it has been renamed the Desalination and Water Purification Research (DWPR) Program. The term "purification" was added to help clarify the goals of the program and emphasize that water purification research is and always has been a part of the program. The program's goal continues to be the development of appropriate technologies to provide affordable supplies of reliable, safe water for water-short communities in the U.S.

This newsletter continues to be a DWPR technology transfer effort. It is provided to keep you informed of the latest activities and developments in the program. For more information about the DWPR program, contact Kevin Price, Program Manager, at 303-445-2260, or visit the DWPR web site at: http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/water/research/DWPR/.


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.