Saline groundwater better option for desalination, finds study

Saline groundwater from coastal aquifers is a better alternative water source than seawater for reverse osmosis desalination due to reduced membrane fouling and pre-treatment costs, researchers have found...

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2016 03 Saline Groundwater

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2016 03 Saline Groundwater

Saline groundwater from coastal aquifers is a better alternative water source than seawater for reverse osmosis (RO) desalination due to reduced membrane fouling and pre-treatment costs, researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have found.

The study was published in Environmental Science & Technology and conducted by Researchers at the BGU Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, the BGU Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences and the Israel Geological Survey.

In the study, vertical wells were used to take samples from the saline groundwater. All the wells were a maximum of 300 feet (100 meters) from the shoreline. Researchers said that other saline groundwater benefits include consistent annual water temperatures, and lower levels of dissolved oxygen, silt density and phytoplankton. It also decreases the cost of desalination, researchers said.

“Decision-makers in both California and Israel can use this research to seriously consider saline groundwater as a realistic alternative when planning future large-scale seawater desalination facilities,” explained Dr. Roni Kasher, a senior lecturer in the BGU Zuckerberg Institute’s Department of Desalination and Water Treatment. “In Israel, seawater desalination accounts for 60% of the total freshwater supply, so these findings are significant.”

BGU researcher Shaked Stein said: “Saline groundwater results from seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers, shifting the fresh-saline water interface upward and landward, and replaces fresh groundwater with saline groundwater. The RO process in coastal aquifers will be helpful in restraining seawater intrusion.

"The study showed that aquifer filtration increases the feed water quality and reduces the need for extensive pre-treatment processes. RO desalination with saline groundwater as feed water is also more efficient, with higher freshwater recoveries, less chemical use and maintenance, and therefore less overall operational costs."

Due to seasonal seawater characteristic fluctuations, Stein specifically recommended using saline groundwater in the summertime rather than seawater since the research identified higher membrane fouling in summer. “Salt rejection decreases in elevated temperatures due to changes in membrane permeability and mass transfer.”

Saline Groundwater from Coastal Aquifers as a Source for Desalination research receivedsupport from the Water Authority of Israel.

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