Black & Veatch launches desalination research

Dec. 22, 2004
Kansas City company to lead a research project, sponsored jointly by the AWWA Research Foundation (AwwaRF) and the California Energy Commission (CEC), to develop a treatment process that reduces the cost and energy consumption for inland desalination with zero liquid discharge (ZLD). The research team will use computer modeling and bench-scale and pilot testing to develop cost-effective solutions for concentrate management...

KANSAS CITY, MO, Dec. 14, 2004 -- Global engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch is leading a research project, sponsored jointly by the AWWA Research Foundation (AwwaRF) and the California Energy Commission (CEC), to develop a treatment process that reduces the cost and energy consumption for inland desalination with zero liquid discharge (ZLD). The research team will use computer modeling and bench-scale and pilot testing to develop cost-effective solutions for concentrate management.

"Many utilities today are challenged to meet growing water demands while managing increased salinity levels in surface water and groundwater sources," said AwwaRF project manager Jennifer Warner. "This research will further the understanding of ZLD and help communities utilize impaired sources more effectively and economically."

According to CEC contract manager Paul Roggensack, the ZLD study is one of several collaborative partnerships identified in the report, Water and Wastewater Industry Energy Efficiency: A Research Roadmap, jointly sponsored by CEC and AwwaRF.

Communities in rapidly growing regions of the United States that have fully allocated their fresh water sources increasingly must consider desalination of brackish water to meet future water demands and sustain economic growth. At coastal treatment facilities, the waste concentrate generated during desalination is typically discharged to the ocean. This option is not available for non-coastal facilities, however, and the need to protect surface water and groundwater sources frequently leads inland communities to consider ZLD treatment of the concentrate. While the ZLD process effectively converts concentrate into desalinated water and essentially dry salts, most applications in operation today employ energy-intensive thermal desalination�a cost-prohibitive option for water utilities.

Principal investigator Rick Bond, a Black & Veatch water process engineer, is leading AwwaRF/CEC Project 3010: Zero Liquid Discharge and Volume Minimization for Inland Desalination. The research team includes scientists and engineers from Black & Veatch, the University of Kansas, the University of North Carolina, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, and GE Betz Water Technologies. The utility partners in this effort are the Phoenix Water Services Department (Ariz.); SNWA; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; and San Antonio Water System (Texas). The research team will test brackish groundwater and reclaimed water provided by the project utility partners.

The technical approach entails alternating applications of reverse osmosis (RO) with precipitation processes designed to remove the least soluble salts under conditions of controlled mixing, salt seeding, chemical addition, residence time, temperature and pH. Following the removal of salts that limit recovery time in the primary RO process, concentrate will be treated in a secondary RO process to facilitate additional potable water recovery and salt concentration.

The test results will be used to develop a ZLD treatment process along with estimated treatment costs for each of the water sources tested. The various water sources slated for testing encompass a majority of inland brackish water characteristics, so the research will provide guidance to water utilities seeking to implement desalination with ZLD, with solutions presented for varied water sources similar to those of many utilities. The resulting report will be available in 2007.

"Discovery of innovative ZLD solutions will require integration of ideas across many scientific disciplines and product applications," said Black & Veatch National Water Practice Leader Bruce Long, who serves as the company's project manager for the research. "It's a pleasure to work with so many desalination experts from throughout the water and energy industries on a project that will help inland water utilities find affordable solutions for salinity management."

About Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch Corp. ( is a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company specializing in infrastructure development in the fields of energy, water and information. Founded in 1915, it serves clients with conceptual and preliminary engineering services, engineering design, procurement, construction, financial management, asset management, information technology, environmental, security design and consulting, and management consulting services. Its Water Sector provides innovative, technology-based solutions to utilities, governments and industries worldwide. Local project managers work with a global team of water and wastewater treatment process experts to address site-specific challenges through a broad range of consulting, study, planning, design, design-build and construction management services. The employee-owned company has more than 90 offices worldwide and is ranked on the Forbes "500 Largest Private Companies in the United States" listing for 2004.

About AwwaRF
AwwaRF ( is a member-supported, international, nonprofit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to consumers. Established in 1966 to provide a centralized, practical research program for the drinking water community, AwwaRF sponsors an anticipatory and scientifically credible research program that is responsive to the needs of the water supply community; identifies the practical benefits of research findings and delivers this knowledge to stakeholders throughout the water supply community; and cultivates partnerships with organizations around the world to leverage funding and share expertise.

About CEC
The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. It is tasked with forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency. With the signing of the Electric Industry Deregulation Law in 1998, the Commission's role includes overseeing funding programs that support public interest energy research; advance energy science and technology through research, development and demonstration; and provide market support to existing, new and emerging renewable technologies.


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