Desalination and Water Purification Research Program
While the need for water for irrigated agriculture is greatest west of the 100th meridian, the need for high quality water for drinking and for industry is nationwide. Technical skill and capability are not limited to the 17 Western States. Projects or studies have been run in more than half of the 50 states, as shown by the map below.
Geographical Distribution of Agreements Awarded
Advanced Water Treatment Research
Water treatment is a very broad field, involving a number of technical disciplines. In DWPR, we are looking for innovations that will have a significant impact on how water treatment is carried out. Where the program has been successful, it has been so because of diversity. Until 2005, the program was sorted out by technology. The selection of projects was deliberately broad, avoiding focusing closely on one or two particular ideas or problems. To provide a picture of the manner in which this was done, Figure 2 shows the distribution of awards made between 2002 and 2005. Two of the subjects were under-represented, largely because the numbers of proposals received were small. Thermal processes like distillation are not widely used in this country because of the high energy input required. Demonstration projects tend to be expensive which requires a significant commitment from the recipient.
Figure 2. Distribution by Subject of Agreements Awarded between FY 2002 and 2005
DWPR followed the recommendations of the National Research Council.
In 2008, The National Research Council published a national review of desalination activities . Their principal recommendations for government research were: “1) Understand the environmental impacts of desalination and develop approaches to minimize these impacts relative to other water supply alternatives, and 2) Develop approaches to lower the financial costs of desalination so that it is an attractive option relative to other alternatives in locations where traditional sources of water are inadequate.” In response to this, DWPR changed its task structure to increase the emphasis on environmental effects, while maintaining the existing concern about cost reduction. The habit of diversification still remains.
The role of DWPR in developing ideas.
The model that we use for development of innovations from concept to use is shown below. This consists of five steps. An idea or new concept is generated somewhere. This is developed through work usually in a laboratory. If successful, this can be proof tested in the field to gain real-time operating data and subsequently demonstrated at an appropriate location to establish the economic and technical validity of the concept. The final step is incorporation into an operating plant. Each of these steps is a winnowing process in which some fail and a few succeed. DWPR funding plays a critical role in taking an idea from the lab through to a real-world demonstration that can both attract industry commercialization and convince the water treatment community of its usefulness. See Desalination, a National Perspective, The National Academies Press, Washington DC (2008).
Generalized Model of Process Innovation Showing the Role of the DWPR