Seawater desalination for agriculture by integrated forward and reverse osmosis: Improved product water quality for potentially less energy

Shaffer, Devin L.; Yip, Ngai Yin; Gilron, Jack; Elimelech, Menachem

Seawater desalination for agricultural irrigation will be an important contributor to satisfying growing water demands in water scarce regions. Irrigated agriculture for food production drives global water demands, which are expected to increase while available supplies are further diminished. Implementation of reverse osmosis, the current leading technology for seawater desalination, has been limited in part because of high costs and energy consumption. Because of stringent boron and chloride standards for agricultural irrigation water, desalination for agriculture is more energy intensive than desalination for potable use, and additional post-treatment, such as a second pass reverse osmosis process, is required. In this perspective, we introduce the concept of an integrated forward osmosis and reverse osmosis process for seawater desalination. Process modeling results indicate that the integrated process can achieve boron and chloride water quality requirements for agricultural irrigation while consuming less energy than a conventional two-pass reverse osmosis process. The challenges to further development of an integrated forward and reverse osmosis desalination process and its potential benefits beyond energy savings are discussed.


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Also Published In

Journal of Membrane Science

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Engineering
Published Here
July 2, 2016