Integrating Reclamation Advanced Water Treatment Research Priorities into Pilot and Demonstration Projects

Project ID: 1009
Principal Investigator: Anna Hoag
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2014 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: water treatment, desalination, pilot projects, demonstration project

Research Question

The transfer of advanced water treatment technology from research to application is often limited by the opportunity to implement research concepts prior to full scale plant design. Pilot and demonstration studies are used to evaluate treatment options and benchmark performance to aid in design. At the pilot and demonstration scale, the opportunity exists to integrate research concepts into design and consider a mixture of proven and emerging technologies.

Reclamation area and regional offices are often approached by municipalities and consultants to participate in pilot desalination studies as a means of augmenting water supplies in their region. There are often components of these types of studies which overlap with Reclamation research interests, but there is no Reclamation framework to facilitate this participation.

Pilot programs can include numerous study objectives that align with the recommendations of the National Research Council's Desalination: A National Perspective. These objectives include evaluating the environmental impacts of concentrate disposal, the treatment of brackish groundwater, and the coupling of renewable energy sources with desalination facilities. By implementing design based research objectives, experimental design, and novel technologies at the pilot scale, demonstrators have the opportunity to advance the research field during piloting.

This scoping study focuses on developing a framework of research pathways to apply water treatment concepts to improve pilot and demonstration projects and answer the research question: How can Reclamation research in advanced water treatment be integrated into pilot and demonstration projects to facilitate the transfer of technology and experience into full-scale applications?

Need and Benefit

In communities all around the world, water supplies are coming under increasing pressure as population growth, climate change, pollution, and changes in land use affect water quantity and quality. To address existing and anticipated water shortages during severe droughts, many communities are working to increase water conservation and are seeking to develop alternative sources of impaired water supplies, including brackish surface and groundwater, as well as seawater. Reclamation's OTAO was recently approached by the three entities wanting to partner in proposed pilot and demonstration projects:

1. The City of Corpus Christi is in the initial stages of planning a pilot study to investigate developing long-term sustainable and drought resistant water supply sources such and seawater and/or brackish groundwater. There is a clear need for the development of additional water supplies in the project area due to recent drought conditions (combined reservoir capacities at less than 35%), as well as increasing water demands from the oil and gas development and industrial users.

2. The Brownsville Public Utilities Board is developing a project that would construct a 2.5 million gallon per day seawater desalination demonstration facility on the Brownsville Ship Channel, with a long term goal of expanding to 25 million gallon per day capacity. The project would also include renewable energy generation facilities (wind and landfill gas) and research facilities that would include the capability for continued testing of desalination technologies for this project and other future seawater desalination facilities.

3. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority is exploring seawater desalination to improve reliability during drought conditions and reduce dependency on surface supplies tied to a recent Endangered Species Act ruling. The project will evaluate the potential co-location of desalination and power generation facilities in order to integrate alternative, low carbon energy sources with water supply. Concentrate disposal options (such as ocean outfall and deep well injection) will also be explored.

The three pilot and demonstration projects listed above all contain numerous components that align with priority research areas outlined in Desalination: A National Perspective (NRC?), which serves as the foundation of Reclamation's goals set forth its Advanced Water Treatment (AWT) Program, as cited below under Mission Responsibility.

The development of pilot and demonstration projects is often difficult due to funding limitations, environmental and permitting requirements, and local political issues. By becoming involved in the projects listed above (and potentially other pilot and demonstration projects throughout the West) there is the opportunity to advance Reclamation research goals in the water treatment field at a fraction of the cost of a stand-alone Reclamation project.

A framework is needed to identify the tradeoffs and appropriate areas to integrate research at the pilot and demonstration scale to improve study results and full-scale design. This scoping study suggests a research strategy to evaluate and structure integration of applied research into a framework document available for Reclamation participation in desalination pilot and demonstration projects.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about 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.

Literature Review of Desalination Research Priorities (final, PDF, 432KB)
By Collins Balcombe, Andrew Tiffenbach and Anna Hoag
Report completed on October 27, 2014

After initiating this literature review, we discovered that Reclamation was beginning an update of its agency-wide desalination roadmap to help prioritize desalination-related needs and to guide allocation of agency resources. We subsequently shifted the focus to help guide Reclamation's desalination roadmap by identifying and summarizing desalination-related research and priorities at various organizational levels both nationally and internationally.

Return to Research Projects

Last Updated: 6/22/20