Desal Directions – July 2015

Posted on 5 August 2015

From the CEO

Wellington Dam, Western Australia, the state’s second largest, is a victim of increasing salinisation. The WA Government will be going to the market to seek innovative ideas for a solution in the near future.

Wellington Dam, Western Australia, the state’s second largest, is a victim of increasing salinisation. The WA Government will be going to the market to seek innovative ideas for a solution in the near future.

Incubating ideas

I was encouraged by the recent decision of the South Australian Government to continue funding of the Goyder Institute for Water Research. Goyder’s research partners are the three SA universities and CSIRO (incidentally three of them are also NCEDA partners). SA has a challenging fiscal environment which would have made it easy for the Government to close the institute as has happened to the Smart Water Fund (Victoria) and the Urban Water Security Alliance (Queensland). I believe support for Goyder’s continuation reflects a positive view that investment in the incubation of new ideas through public funding is essential to maintain Australia’s momentum in offering water solutions for export to a thirsty world.

I am aware of at least two large projects currently in “market sounding” stage to address rising salinisation problems. The Northern Victoria Saline Management Project seeks ideas from the private sector to reduce the impact of salt from industrial discharges on the agricultural region from Albury to Bendigo. On the other side of the country, the WA Government is seeking ideas from the market to reduce salinity of water from the very productive Wellington Dam near Collie south of Perth. The key is finding a clever technical solution along with innovative high value agriculture so that the development is financially viable, and good water research is needed more than ever.

The NCEDA and our supporters are working on a bid to form a new Future Water Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). The CRC will maintain a strong technical focus on desalination and water treatment technologies, but broaden the research profile to work on removing limitations to otherwise productive land impacted by saline water. A brief description of what the Water Future CRC might look like can be found on our website.

A Water Recycling and Desalination Symposium “Building Urban Water Resilience” will be held in Brisbane on 4 and 5 November. The Symposium will present an excellent program of invited speakers on research projects undertaken by the NCEDA and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence. Supported by Water Services Association of Australia and the US Water Reuse Association, an international component will focus on technical, economic and political solutions to water security issues common to both countries. We look forward to seeing you there.

Neil Palmer

Chief Executive Officer
0417 996 126

In this issue


Growing vegetables with bubbles

Mario Schmack, researcher at Murdoch University and recipient of NCEDA and WA government scholarships

Mario Schmack, researcher at Murdoch University and recipient of NCEDA and WA government scholarships

Mario Schmack
Engineering and Information Technology
Murdoch University
NCEDA and WA Government PhD Top-Up Scholarship
Completing 30 August 2015

Mario Schmack is a member of a team of Murdoch University researchers that have designed an efficient, small-scale greenhouse combining desalination with food production.

The Bubble-Greenhouse represents an easy-to-operate, low-maintenance option for remote regions and communities faced with groundwater salinity issues. The key to the concept is its novel humidification-dehumidification (HD) process, which aims to have a much higher water-production capacity than existing small-scale desalination technologies. In the HD system, solar or wind generation powers a regenerative blower which pushes air through finely-pored sinter discs located within a six-chamber column evaporator filled with saline water. The result is thousands of fine bubbles, with some special properties.

“The key to our effective evaporation process is the large air/water interface produced and maintained by a unique property of salt water,” Mario Schmack says. “Unlike in a freshwater bubble column where bubbles would continuously collide and join together as they oscillate upwards, it has been discovered that by adding salt to a floatation chamber, bubble coalescence is inhibited by a still unexplained property.”

A finer bubble stream means more surface area for evaporation. When the saturated air exits the top of the evaporator it is channelled under pressure into a multi-stage condenser which collects fresh water and releases cooled vapour to humidify the greenhouse.

The researchers suggest a 150m2 greenhouse could produce up to 30kg of crops daily while providing additional fresh desalinated water through night-time condensation. The Bubble-Greenhouse design is suitable for northern WA’s climate, with a lightweight aluminium frame and a special polycarbonate skin that allows the penetration of 60 per cent of photosynthetically active radiation while screening out most infra-red radiation, thus helping to moderate temperatures. Beyond this, the greenhouse components are manufactured from simple, sturdy materials that can easily be dismantled and stored, which is vital given the frequency of tropical cyclones in the region.

Mr Schmack says simplicity is at the heart of the design, as desalination technologies such as reverse osmosis have proven untenable in remote areas due to their complicated nature. “The Bubble-Greenhouse system relies on basic technology such as regenerative blowers and technically undemanding water pumps, so it’s easy to implement and easy to maintain and repair by local people with limited technical means,” Mr Schmack says. “By using the considerable bush-mechanic skills of remote people, it represents great potential for community participation and sustainability, providing a stepping stone to self-reliance for remote communities.”

The project’s next step is scaling-up with industry partners.

The research has been published here.


Interview with NCEDA Founding Chief Scientific Officer, Professor David Furukawa

Professor David Furukawa

Professor David Furukawa

•         What do you think have been the NCEDA’s key achievements? 

In my view, growing capacity has probably been the key achievement. During the first round of proposals, it became clear that many scientists considered multi-disciplinary as “within their own walls.” Broadening their horizons by introducing key international scientists to the projects resulted in a rich portfolio of research. About 30 international collaborators have been engaged in these projects.

•         What have been the challenges, and how has the NCEDA met these?

One of the challenges confronted was the “east v. west” mentality within Australia. Those scientists proposing similar projects were encouraged to engage with each other to come up with a single project which was intended to be more representative of the country. Although there have been successes in this regard, the divide still continues but workshops in different regions and tele-conferences continue to keep everyone updated on research.

•         What role has the NCEDA played in advancing desalination research in Australia?  The Centre has played a strong role in broadening research efforts and encouraging promising technologies by extending projects with additional funding and support. Adding knowledge from around the world has enriched Australia as well as participating countries. A few innovative concepts have reached proof of concept and will be helpful in the future.

•         With the growth in the world’s population and changes in climatic conditions, how can the challenges of future water security be met?

This is a huge question that will elicit many different responses.  Research alone will not solve the challenges.  Even after exploratory and secondary research proves proof-of-concept, the biggest step is reducing the concept to reality (commercial development).  In the five year funding provided by the government, it was unrealistic to hope that a holistic answer could be found.  Excellent advances have been made, however, to solve niche elements of technology that will eventually provide that answer: 1)  a place for forward osmosis in desalination technology, 2) materials research into more efficient electrodes for capacitive deionization, 3)  the role of solar energy and desalination in solving challenges in remote regions, 4)  methodologies for concentrate minimization/disposal for inland areas.  These answers meet only a small segment of the global population and desalination must be accompanied by sound water recycling and reuse options. Wherever groundwater harvesting is practiced, it must be accompanied by a concurrent program to recharge the aquifers. The Water Corporation of Western Australia is leading the way toward a more effective and efficient water use cycle.

•         Given Australia’s unique position as the driest inhabited continent, and large resources of poor quality water, what contribution can Australia make to these challenges?

Some are detailed above, but the biggest challenge may be to solve the water problems of the remote regions. Even groundwater will eventually become saline or in the worst case, non-potable. This will require an expensive, extensive program to benefit a small percentage of the total population. The Centre’s work in combining solar energy with desalination and driving the quest for solutions to concentrate disposal are key to the future.


NCEDA Researcher – Professor Huanting Wang

Professor Huanting Wang of Monash University

Professor Huanting Wang of Monash University

Principal Investigator: Non-brittle Ceramic Hollow Fibre Membranes
Monash University with the University of Queensland

Monash University scientist Professor Huanting Wang is developing non-brittle ceramic hollow fibre membranes for the pre-treatment of seawater in desalination. This NCEDA-funded research will incorporate ceramic nanofibres into porous ceramic structures to create a cost-effective technique for the fabrication of ceramic hollow fibre membranes with high toughness and tunable pore sizes for efficient seawater pre-treatment. Professor Wang and his research team have developed a new technique for the fabrication of ultrafine hollow fibre membranes using a single orifice spinneret, and ceramic hollow fibre membranes with significantly improved toughness and enhanced water flux.

Professor Wang is currently a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Associate Dean (International) of the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University. Originally qualified in material engineering at the University of Science and Technology in China, he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and University of California Riverside. The Monash scientist was awarded an ARC QEII Fellowship in 2004 and an ARC Future Fellowship in 2010. He was a member of the ARC Future Fellowship selection advisory committee in 2011, and is a member of the ARC College of Experts. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry, a Senior Member of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Editor of Journal of Experimental Nanoscience.


IDA World Congress and DesalTech 2015

San Diego - Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

San Diego – Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

DesalTech 2015 – 28 – 29 August 2015
This 2-day conference will focus specifically on research in emerging water desalination technologies for municipal and industrial applications. DesalTech will be held Aug 28-29, 2015, in San Diego, California, and is co-located with the IDA World Congress, which will take place from Aug 30-Sept 4. Those who register for both DesalTech and IDA will receive a discount on both registration rates.

Highlights from the conference program include:
• Two plenary sessions featuring distinguished experts from Singapore Membrane Technology Center, Yale University, National University of Singapore, and Conoco-Philips.
• Twelve topic sessions featuring 50 presentations on emerging research in forward osmosis, membrane distillation, pressure retarded osmosis, reverse electrodialysis, and other desalination technologies.
• Welcome/networking reception highlighting 30 technical poster presentations.

DesalTech is being organised by the NCEDA, the National Water Research Institute and the Water Desalination and Reuse Centre at KAUST.

Download the full program and presentation abstracts at here.

The IDA 2015 World Congress
Find Congress activities such as co-located events, IDA Academy, Open Forum Panels, Plant Tour Schedule and the Technical Program Session which lists the oral and digital poster presentations. The Advanced Program is now available here.

IDA Young Leader Awards – US$5,000 in prizes
IDA has two monetary Emerging Leader Award opportunities for contributions made to the desalination and water reuse industry: 1) the Emerging Leaders Achievement Award (sponsored by ARWADEX) is given to one candidate of the IDA Young Leaders Program who has shown a track record of positive leadership and originality; and 2) the Best Paper Presented By A Young Leader Award which is one of five Congress Technical Awards to be presented during the Congress.

Deadline is 7 August 2015. For more information regarding eligibility requirements and judging criteria, click here.


SSDP Achieves Stage 2 Final Completion Milestone

The Southern Seawater Desalination Plant at Binningup, WA. Photo courtesy of the Water Corporation

The Southern Seawater Desalination Plant at Binningup, WA. Photo courtesy of the Water Corporation

The Southern Seawater Desalination Plant, also known as Perth 2, has recently achieved its Stage 2 Final Completion Milestone, which marks the end of the Defects Liability Period. The plant was designed and built for Western Australia’s Water Corporation bySouthern Seawater Alliance, comprised of Tecnicas Reunidas, Valoriza Agua, Worley Parsons and AJ Lucas. The Alliance continues to operate the 274,000 m3/d (72.4 MGD) facility.

Phase 1 of the project was commissioned in September 2011 and phase 2 was commissioned in December 2012. The plant’s energy requirements are offset by the entire output of two renewable energy farms near Geraldton—the 10 MW Greenough River Solar Farm and the 55 MW Mumbida Wind Farm.

The plant has the capacity to produce about 30 percent of Perth’s water supply.


Forthcoming eventsWater Conference

The National Water Policy Summit 2015 – 6-7 October 2015, Melbourne

Water and Development Congress & Exhibition – 18-22 October 2015, Jordan

American Water Summit – 20-21 October 2015, Denver, USA

Building Urban Water Resilience – International Water Reuse and Desalination Symposium – 4-5 Nov 2015, Brisbane. Proudly organised by the NCEDA, Water Services Association of Australia, WateReuse and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence

International Conference on Sustainable Water Management 2015 – 29 Nov-3 Dec 2015 Murdoch University, Perth

IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition 2016 – 9-13 October 2016, Brisbane


Other NewsiStock_000003247762 small glass

A decade of drought

Good news on environmental report on desalination

Adelaide records its driest June since 2006

NASA study says that the Canning Basin in WA is being depleted too fast

Using desalination to address drought

Drinking water shortage forecast for South West WA within a decade

The role of water in Australia’s uncertain future


Gold Industry Sponsors

The NCEDA is grateful for the generous support of our Gold Industry Sponsors.

Valoriza Water Australia       Osmoflo       GHD

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