Investigation of benefit and application of desalination fuel cells to meet Reclamation's rural water needs

Project ID: 8673
Principal Investigator: Katherine Guerra
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2013 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013
Keywords: integrated membrane system, renewable energy, desalination, water reuse

Research Question

Which applications that serve Reclamation's mission will benefit from an integrate renewable energy-desalination-fuel cell technology?

Can a microbial capacitive desalinaton cell (MCDC) be used to meet Reclamations needs?

Does this technology have the potential to be competitive for small scale rural communities?

What are the reserach needs and process improvements that this technology requires to be utilized to increase water supplies in an affordable, reliable, robust manner?

Need and Benefit

In many rural areas, including small communities and native American lands, local water supplies do not meet safe drinking water standards. In addition to limited access to fresh water for human consumption, livestock watering, and irrigation, communities have limited access to the power grid. On many Indian reservations, estimates are that upwards of 30 to 35% of the population is without access to the power grid AND public water systems.

As a result of limited water and power supply, residents of these communities rely on hauling water long distances from centralized treatment facilities or fresh water sources. Hauling water is expensive and inefficient from a quality of life and environmentally friendly perspective. Therefore, there is an immense need to implement small-scale integrated renewable energy-desalination systems in the remote areas of the Western United States.

While much attention has been raised for areas such as the Navajo Nation in Arizona, a need exists all across the Western United States for rural water solutions. For example, scientific studies show that much of the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer has been contaminated with farming pesticides and commercial, factory, mining, and industrial contaminants in the States of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas which affects rural and tribal communities across much of the central Western U.S.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Not Reviewed

The following documents were not reviewed. Statements made in these documents are those of the authors. The findings have not been verified.

Microbial Desalination Fuel Cells: Assessment of technology status and potential benefit for Reclamation (final, PDF, 182KB)
By Katherine Guerra
Report completed on May 29, 2014

In recent years, the number of publications regarding microbial desalination cells (MDCs) has been increasing. This white paper reviews the most pertinent literature on the subject.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20