Bureau of Reclamation Banner

Contact Us Home

The Desalination and Water Purification Research & Development Program Newsletter - No. 22 - Spring 2002


The Desalination and Water Purification Research and Development (DWPR) Program's overall objective is to reduce the desalting and water purification technologies costs to augment U.S. water supplies. Through this program, Reclamation continues to form partnerships with private industry, universities, local communities, and others to address a broad range of desalting and water purification needs. Under the Water Desalination Act of 1996, Reclamation is awarding financial assistance agreements for research, pilot-scale investigations, and demonstration plants.

The research and studies will focus on concentrate issues, followed by membrane process development, non-traditional or alternative desalination, and ancillary and economic improvements. For fiscal year 2002, Reclamation anticipates awarding 6 to 9 agreements for research and pilot-scale investigations, or 1 demonstration plant agreement. Pilot-scale investigations will be part of the resesarch and studies requests for proposals (RFP). A separate RFP is being issued for demonstration projects. Awards depend on the content and quality of proposals received. However, should additional funding become available, additional awards may be made. Any resesarch that meets the program goals will be fully considered; examples given below are merely illustrative.


Research and studies financial assistance agreements will be awarded in the following task areas. Study agreements will last 1 year or less, with Federal funds of $75,000 to $100,000. (Follow-on funding may be available for additional research studies, pilot-plant projects, or future demonstration projects.) Award amounts vary according to interest areas.

TASK A - MEMBRANE PROCESS RESEARCH AND STUDIES. The task goal is to reduce costs and increase ease of operations for membrane-based desalting and water treatment systems. Qualifying projects can apply to any portion of a membrane treatment process, including pretreatment. Examples of these projects include, but are not limited to, (1) integrated membrane systems (IMS) development, (2) research on membrane storage or preservation techniques and biological control during plant operation, (3) studies on foulants or other materials adhering to membrane surfaces, (4) studies on membrane cleaning, including frequency and effectiveness, (5) improvements in membrane-containing elements or stacks, (6) increase in rates of mass transfer to membrane surfaces, (7) studies on the influence of minor groundwater components on membrane properties, (8) studies on pretreatment specifically for membrane processes, (9) studies on presence and influence of biofilms on membranes, and (10) development of investigative techniques relating to membrane processes.

TASK C - NON-TRADITIONAL AND ALTERNATIVE DESALINATION RESEARCH AND STUDIES. The task goal is to investigate non-traditional or alternative desalination or water purification techniques, including evaluating economics and thermodynamic efficiency of these processes. Examples of these projects include, but are not limited to, (1) developing new, innovative alternative desalination processes, (2) investigating innovative techniques combining desalination processes with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic, wind power, solar thermal, and geothermal, and (3) investigating freeze desalination and innovative combined desalination processes. Only technologies that can become cost competitive with existing membrane and thermal processes will be considered. Proposed projects should be potentially commercially viable and have wide applicability.

TASK E - ANCILLARY AND ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENTS. The task goal is to make desalination processes more economical. Following are examples of these projects. (1) A method for evaluating the economic implications of technological improvements is of primary importance at this time. Reclamation has models for reverse osmosis and nanofiltration that are sensitive enough for this purpose but needs models for electrodialysis, ion exchange, and thermal desalting methods. If the DWPR program is to decrease costs of desalting, it must have models for all desalting methods so that the recent technological improvements made under this program can be compared on an equal basis. (2) Studies optimizing cost and/or design for different operating conditions. (3) Investigation of methods to increase the economic efficiency of desalination processes, including hybrid systems or dual-purpose co-facilities with other processes involving the use of water. (4) Detailed surveys of construction and operating costs for desalination facilities with common itemized categories of costs for each plant surveyed normalized to a common basis.

TASK F - CONCENTRATE ISSUES. The task goal is to evaluate problems related to concentrate disposal and to develop new techniques to reduce disposal costs and impacts on the environment. Examples of these projects include, but are not limited to, (1) Recovering and using irrigation return flows, (2) Developing high salt complex mixtures, (3) Creating products that use salts, (4) Developing concentrate disposal systems, (5) Recovering and using concentrate by-products (dissolved salts), (6) Salinity modeling and toxicity analysis of concentrate discharges to the environment, (7) Substituting brackish concentrate for potable water in industrial applications, and (8) Removing supersaturated salts to permit further desalting of concentrate to reduce the volume of disposal concentrates. Only technologies that could become cost competitive with existing disposal methods will be considered. Proposed projects should be potentially commercially viable and have wide applicability.


TASK G - TESTING OF PILOT-SCALE SYSTEMS. The task goal is to share the cost of designing, fabricating, and testing pilot-scale systems, processes, and concepts. Pilot plant agreements will last for 2 years or less. Contingent upon congressional funding, a maximum amount of $270,000 per agreement will be awarded for Reclamation's cost-share portion ($150,000 the first year and $120,000 the second year).

Awards under this task typically result from successful research and studies from one of the other emphasis areas in the DWPR program that demonstrates a high level of success and a need for further technology development. However, any researcher may submit a pre-proposal who can provide sufficient documentation indicating that a high level of prior successful research has been accomplished and that the project is at the designing, building, and testing pilot-plant stage.


Reclamation also anticipates awarding one agreement to cost-share the design, construction, and testing of a demonstration-scale system. This project will show the technology in action and suggest changes before a full-scale project. Demonstration projects would treat about 250,000 to 1,000,000 gallons per day. The projects must verify capital and operation and maintenance costs for full-scale projects and result in information needed to design, construct, and test full-scale projects. Examples include, but are not limited to membrane bioreactors, innovative membrane test beds for seawater desalination, dewvaporation, and clathrate desalination.

This agreement will last three years or less, with Federal funds up to $1,000,000 for the three-year agreement. As with pilot plants, awards are usually from other successful research; however, any researcher may submit a proposal.


Any responsible source, including individuals, academic institutions, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities (including state and local), or Indian Tribal Governments may submit a pre-proposal which Reclamation will consider. However, Federal agencies and foreign entities (other than binational research foundations and inter-university research programs established by the United States and Mexico) are not eligible for funding.

Two fiscal year 2002 DWPR pre-proposal solicitation packages were posted in the Commerce Business Daily on February 6, 2002. The pre-proposal packages may be obtained by fax (720) 544-4571. They may also be downloaded at Reclamation's Acquisitions and Assistance Management Services web site at www.usbr.gov/mso/aamd/. Telephone requests will not be honored.

When preparing proposals, refer to either or both (1) task areas A, C, E, F, and G for research and studies, and pilot-scale systems, or (2) task area I for demonstration projects. Pre-proposals must be submitted in accordance with the pre-proposal package instructions and must not be more than six pages. Pre-proposals are due no later than March 31, 2002.

Partners must be willing to cost-share 50 percent or more of the project cost through cash or in-kind contributions from the offeror or third party non-Federal participants. Cost-sharing is not mandatory from academic institutions but is strongly encouraged. Those providing additional cost-share will be given greater consideration. No profit or fee will be allowed.

Research partners will retain patent rights for any developments in accordance with the solicitation's provisions. Pre-proposals will be reviewed for overall scientific and/or technical merit, potential contributions to the DWPR program objectives, qualifications of the proposer, and reasonableness of the estimated project costs. Meritorious pre-proposers will be encouraged to submit a full proposal. Submitting pre-proposals are not mandatory; however, Reclamation urges offerors to do so to benefit from the initial pre-proposal screening process. Solicitation packages for the full proposals will be issued on or about April 30, 2002, with a due date of approximately 45 days after issuance.


For more information about the DWPR, contact Program Manager, Tom Jennings, at (303) 445-2130, 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 DWPR 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.