Demonstration Forward Osmosis Treatment System

Project ID: 326
Principal Investigator: Steve Dundorf
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2014 (Advanced Water Treatment), 2015 (Advanced Water Treatment), 2016 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: water treatment, forward osmosis, native american, navajo, desalination, low energy

Research Question

Primary Research Question: Can forward osmosis wastewater to fertilizer (FO-WTF) be considered a viable non-potable water treatment option for low income users in remote locations?

Related Research Questions:
1) What overall recovery can be achieved and how much makeup water is required (theoretical vs actual)?
2) What is the fouling potential of the membranes?
3) What fertilizer concentration is required / too high (theoretical vs actual)?
4) What is a practical size for a full scale system?
5) How can this system be practically installed in a remote location such as the Navajo Nation?
6) Is this a technology that can be reasonably implemented when maintenance is unlikely and users probably have minimal technical skills for system repairs?
7) What might a full scale system cost?

Need and Benefit

In many arid regions wastewater represents an under utilized source of recycled water. However, wastewater contains feces, urine, surfactants, food wastes, pathogenic microorganisms, blood, and salts, which make it inappropriate for direct reuse for irrigation. Conventional tertiary treatment, which treats wastewater to levels considered appropriate for irrigation, is typically too costly for small-scale applications and does not remove salts. A low cost, low power system capable of treating wastewater generated in small communities to standards appropriate for reuse as irrigation water could find wide application in many arid regions. Such a system must be inexpensive, economical to install and operate, and should result in no impairment of land and water resources due to prolonged exposure of treated wastewater. The system described in this proposal may accomplish these goals and is ideally suited to application in small communities, such as the Navajo Nation, who want to utilize wastewater as an irrigation resource. The system is referred to as the FO-WTF process.

Contributing Partners


Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Fertilizer Driven Forward Osmosis Water Treatment System Modeling (final, PDF, 226KB)
By Katie Guerra and Steve Dundorf
Report completed on January 23, 2015

Fertilizer Driven Forward Osmosis (FDFO) can be used to supplement fresh water required to produce fertigation water for
agricultural use. Reclamation investigated FDFO to determine if it is an economically feasible solution for arid areas with
impaired water sources and a need to grow crops. Through a FDFO mass balance model, Reclamation determined the
estimated amount of water that can be obtained from impaired water sources for this purpose is low (<20%) and is not
recommended for this ap
Keywords: water treatment, forward osmosis, desalination

Last Updated: June 29, 2015