Water purification project to address West Bank water issues

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BEER-SHEVA, Israel, Aug. 13, 2010 -- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's (BGU) Dr. Moshe Herzberg and Prof. Mohammed Saleem Ali-Shtayeh of the Biodiversity and Environmental Research Center (BERC) in Nablus received a significant grant to increase the clean water supply around Israel and the Middle East. This study brings together Israelis and Palestinians to address clean water issues in the West Bank area of Nablus over a five-year period.

The US-AID MERC grant for $659,410 will address biofouling of Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes during reclamation of secondary wastewater. Reverse Osmosis membrane filtration is normally used for desalination and reclamation of secondary effluents, removing organics and undesired salts from water. The grant project, "Reclamation of Secondary Effluents with Reverse Osmosis Membranes (RO): Fouling Mechanisms and Control," will focus on the mechanisms by which microbial biofilm formation on RO membranes ("biofouling") impacts the decrease in membrane performance. It will also suggest novel ways to mitigate biofouling and clean biofouled membranes.

According to Dr. Herzberg, "These techniques can be applied to increase access to clean water supply in the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Purified secondary wastewater is an immediate resource for irrigation and after RO filtration those waters can be used indirectly for drinking."

The researchers, Dr. Moshe Herzberg (BGU), Dr. Osnat Gillor (BGU), Prof. Mohammed Saleem Ali-Shtayeh (BERC) and Dr. Helen Thanh Nguyen, a grant advisor and assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, are planning to characterize and eventually find novel ways to eradicate different biofilms grown on RO membranes. Biofilm characterization will include adhesion properties, microbial community structure, growth kinetics and chemical structure.

Drs. Moshe Herzberg and Osnat Gillor are both researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research which is part of BGU's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion Univeristy of the Negev:
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. For more information, please visit www.aabgu.org.

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