Desal Directions – August 2015

Posted on 4 September 2015

From the CEO

Professor David Furukawa, NCEDA's Founding Chief Scientific Officer with Professor Gary Amy of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology at DesalTech2105 in San Diego.

Professor David Furukawa, NCEDA’s Founding Chief Scientific Officer with Professor Gary Amy of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology at DesalTech2105 in San Diego.

Australia’s international standing

I am writing this column from San Diego where I am attending the DesalTech 2015, an international conference on emerging water desalination technologies in municipal and industrial applications and the International Desalination Association’s World Congress.

The two day DesalTech workshop on 28-29 August was partnered by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) of USA and the NCEDA. Many thanks to Prof. Gary Amy (KAUST) and Prof. David Furukawa (NCEDA) who arranged a brilliant program on international desalination research which was well received by the 200 delegates. Thanks also to Jeff Mosher of NWRI and his team for their excellent organisation.

The IDA World Congress followed which includes meetings of the Board which governs the association. Among the twenty-nine member Board I am pleased to say that there are three Australians – Emilio Gabbrielli, Gary Crisp and myself. While Emilio is Italian by birth and currently lives in Rio de Janeiro where he works in business development for Toray, he has spent most of his professional career in Australia. He’s an Aussie citizen, and also a Roving Ambassador for the Australian Water Association, and still calls Australia home. Gary, a South African Aussie, has also recently accepted a position with Spanish international firm Sacyr in developing their business in North America. Gary currently calls Washington DC home.  Sacyr is the parent of Valoriza, the process part of the consortium that built and now operates Perth’s Southern Seawater Desalination Plant in Binningup. Emilio has just been elected President of IDA –the first Australian to hold the post. The NCEDA congratulates him on this prestigious appointment.

I have been invited to present a number of times at IDA World Congresses about Australian desalination. This has given me pause to think about why the world has such an interest in our achievements. Basically it falls to three prominent characteristics:
(1) In response to the worst drought in a thousand years, we designed, built and commissioned six world class seawater desalination plants worth $10 billion in just eight years (2004-2012).
(2) All of the plants purchase renewable energy to offset the energy consumed in desalinating seawater, so they are effectively carbon neutral in operation.
(3) All of the plants have paid particular attention to careful location and design of intake and concentrate return systems so that any adverse impact on the marine environment is negligible.

Frankly, I am enormously proud of these achievements and say so at every given opportunity. Of course, there is much more to the Australian desalination story, starting from the Mammoth Condenser in Coolgardie, built in 1895 and at the time the world’s largest desalination plant. Emilio was one of Australia’s reverse osmosis pioneers, along with Ian Fergus and Bob Masters of Permutit, who built the early plants including Cook and Coober Pedy in South Australia in the early 1970s and the large Bayswater and Mount Piper power station brackish water plants in NSW in the 1980s.

The Centre plans to prepare an application for a more comprehensive Future Water CRC when the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programme reopens in order to expand on the R&D momentum created so far, and so it is pleasing that it continues to receive positive feedback from the international desalination community. Australia is the world’s driest continent and we have some of the most challenging feed water quality.  I have found many people from around the world look to us and expect us to contribute solutions to water problems wherever they arise.

Neil Palmer

Chief Executive Officer

0417 996 126

In this issue


California looks to Australia for water solutions

NCEDA CEO Neil Palmer is in San Diego this week at the IDA World Congress 2015

NCEDA CEO Neil Palmer is in San Diego this week at the IDA World Congress 2015

Water experts from around the world are in San Diego this week for a six day conference aimed at easing water shortages. The IDA World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse, in San Diego USA comes as the long-awaited Carlsbad Desalination Project is set to go online later this year.

Neil Palmer, NCEDA’s CEO, has been invited to speak at the conference and has been overwhelmed with the level of interest shown in Australia’s water management policies and its experience in desalination in particular.

“Australia is the world’s driest continent and has some of the most challenging feed water quality.  I have found many people from around the world look to us and expect us to contribute solutions to water problems wherever they arise” says Neil.

Australia knows all too well how devastating a drought can be. The country’s so-called “Millennium drought” started in 1995 and ran until 2009 and in response to this worst drought on record, Australia built a $10 billion seawater desalination program, constructing six major plants around the country.

Many lessons can be learned from Australia’s experience in desalination and Neil Palmer is a strong advocate of the technology. He was recently voted number one in a list of the top 25 leaders in the global water industry by water industry members and the readers of Water & WasteWater International magazine.

His opinion is often sought in order to dispel the myths that surround desalination. “Australia’s first seawater desalination plant in Perth has been operating for eight years with 100 percent flow into an enclosed bay.  If ever there was going to be an impact from desalination on the environment this would be it. It’s had no measurable impact on the environment,” says Palmer. “The cost, including capital cost, works out to about $7 per week, per household. That’s equivalent to two cups of coffee.”

Neil Palmer has been interviewed on US TV this week.



NCEDA Researcher – Professor Maria Forsyth

Professor Maria Forsyth of Deakin University

Professor Maria Forsyth of Deakin University

Deakin University Smart Materials for Corrosion Management with Monash University, Ohio State University, AECOM, ASIS Scientific, AusComposites

The construction and maintenance of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants require a wide range of materials such as metals, alloys and composites. As the working environments in desalination plants are highly corrosive, corrosion poses significant problems and a financial burden during the construction and operational phases in terms of costly materials selection and ongoing plant maintenance.

The NCEDA-funded project Smart Materials for Corrosion Management, led by Professor Maria Forsyth at Deakin University aims to develop smart materials and select the most appropriate materials for optimising the design, reliability and durability of SWRO desalination plants, and for preventing corrosion-induced unplanned shutdowns and expensive repairs. The project is designed to address two key areas of interest in the management of corrosion problems associated with desalination plants in Australia: (1) Understanding the corrosion performance of existing materials components and structures within the complex environmental conditions of desalination plants exposed to major and minor threats including hypochlorite, water and soil problems; and (2) Development of dedicated, lower cost, maintenance materials, and life cycle extension to maximise output and efficiency in the desalination industry.

Professor Maria Forsyth is an Australian Academy of Science fellow, Australian Laureate Fellow, an Alfred Deakin Professorial Fellow at Deakin University as well as the Associate Director of theARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). She is also the Deputy Director of the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University where she leads the research effort in metal-air batteries and the development and understanding of new electrolyte systems.

Her research area informs the broad field of electromaterials science with application to both corrosion and energy related technologies and her work has had an impact in a number of fields, from aerospace structures, to water treatment, water pipelines, desalination, oil and gas pipes and other civil and marine infrastructure. Professor Forsyth and her group have also made significant contributions to technological advances in the energy sector and have been involved with projects relating to the development of lithium ion and lithium metal secondary batteries.


Interview with NCEDA Board Member, Professor Don Bursill

Professor Don Bursill AM, retired Chief Scientist of South Australia, former Chief Scientist at SA Water and CEO of the CRC for Water Quality and Treatment

Professor Don Bursill AM, retired Chief Scientist of South Australia, former Chief Scientist at SA Water and CEO of the CRC for Water Quality and Treatment

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

It is true that for many communities the availability of fresh water resources is already limited and is likely to be more restricted under climate change in the future. However there is ample water in the world, only most of it is saline. A statement I heard some years ago was that we can now turn anything wet into good drinking water if we filter it through enough money. Although intended to be amusing it does point to the fact that there are technology solutions to producing good quality water from unsatisfactory sources, whether it be recycling water on a space shuttle, utilising seawater or sustaining communities or mining operations in arid areas through the use of saline groundwater resources. Research, such as that undertaken by the NCEDA, contributes to improved efficiencies, better technologies, lower capital and operating costs – all of which reduce the amount of money the source water needs to be filtered through before it is fit-for-purpose.

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? 

The challenges in providing reliable and secure water for its many uses are global. In my experience in working with a wide range of international water research organisations, everyone’s list of research priorities contain much the same issues. The order of priorities will be different depending on local circumstances. Much better progress can be made by sharing our knowledge and experience with colleagues in other countries. When faced with challenges somewhat extreme, as we often are in the water sector in Australia, this is a catalyst for innovation and the results are usually applicable to others. Our very long public water supply distribution systems in many parts of rural Australia cause special challenges with disinfection. We have learnt how to deal with this and the solutions have been helpful to water authorities in many other countries. Australia has played its part in a substantial way with water management and I expect this to continue into the future.

As a public champion of science and innovation what role do you think the NCEDA can play in Australian research & development in the future?

As already indicated, I believe that technology development and associated operational and policy work holds the key to water safety and security in the future. The research focus of the NCEDA is central to meeting the future needs for increased quantities of fresh water. The NCEDA’s emphasis on the development of young researchers and in the training of operational staff is also a critical component in ensuring future needs are met. On a broader level, I find it concerning to see so many of our traditional industries disappearing due to international competition from low cost countries. We cannot compete by chasing the costs down. We have been too slow to respond to competition. Innovation is the key to this and research is at the core of this process. High cost countries such as Germany and Switzerland have been able to maintain their success in manufacturing through research and innovation – and through strong links between their research institutions and their industries. Australia’s water sector has been a stronger performer in this regard. We have met substantial challenges and developed and implemented innovative solutions. However, in the water sector, there always seems to be another challenge around the corner. This is no time to relax or drop the ball.

What was it about the NCEDA that made you want to become a Board member? 

I know many of the key people involved and I am impressed with the outcomes that NCEDA has produced in its relatively short life. I saw the bid that was produced for the proposed CRC in 2014 and I found it compelling. When asked to be involved, I accepted immediately.


Building Urban Water ResilienceBrisbane Queensland Australia_1[1]

An International Water Reuse and Desalination Symposium November 4-5, The Pullman, Brisbane

Attendees to the International Water Reuse and Desalination Symposium will explore the latest in climate resilient water solutions and hear from expert international speakers. The Symposium organisers WSAA, WateReuse, Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence and the NCEDA are pleased to announce an eminent line up of key note speakers.

Day one will kick off with a welcome from the Honourable Mark Bailey, Minister for Energy and Water Supply in Queensland. Richard Nagel, General Manager of West Basin Municipal Water District and Karlene Maywald, Former Chair of the National Water Commission will address the challenges facing the US and Australia, with a focus on how both countries are using policy, planning and practice to implement a progressive water recycling and desalination agenda to help meet future needs. On day two attendees will hear from Sue Murphy, CEO of Water Corporation about their 10 year plan to drought-proof Perth by 2022 so that sufficient water supplies are maintained, whatever the weather.

Early-bird registrations have opened for this important Symposium so register now.


Reverse Osmosis Specialist Training

IMG_7559The NCEDA’s Professional Training will now be managed by AMS Training & Solutions (AMSTS), a new company run by Warren Hays, former Manager of the NCEDA’s Desal Discovery Centre.  AMSTS will partner directly with David H Paul Inc. and collaborate with the NCEDA to continue to bring this expert, world renowned Reverse Osmosis Specialist training to Australia.

Training & Dates

1. Reverse Osmosis 101 (Classroom). This one day seminar forms the basis for the hands-on training but is also ideal for anyone needing a better understanding of RO desalination and the supporting technologies.

Hydro Tasmania, George Town TAS – Thursday, 8 October 2015

NCEDA, Rockingham WA – Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Osmoflo, Adelaide SA – Tuesday, 20 October 2015

2. Operation, Control and Maintenance (Hands-on). Involves hands-on practice and skill formation using a commissioned desal plant.

Hydro Tasmania, George Town TAS – Friday, 9 October 2015 “Venue to be Confirmed”

WA – Wednesday to Friday, 14-16 October 2015

Osmoflo, Adelaide SA – Wednesday to Friday, 21-23 October 2015

Combine RO101 (1 day) and Operation, Control and Maintenance (3 days) into one package to complete the DHPaul Reverse Osmosis Specialist (Level 2) training.

3. Membrane Filtration & Membrane Bioreactors (Classroom). This seminar covers the basics of Membrane Filtration and Membrane Bioreactors.

NCEDA, Rockingham WA – Monday, 12 October 2015

SA Water House, Adelaide SA – Monday, 19 October 2015

Email or phone +61 431 666 534 to reserve your place now.


Forthcoming events

Water ConferenceThe 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.

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

10th Global Water Summit – 19-20 April 2016, Abu Dhabi, UAE

IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition 2016 – 9-13 October 2016, Brisbane. Call for Papers now open. The themes for technical papers, posters, and case studies for 2016 are:
• Liveable and sustainable cities of the future
• Operations and asset management
• Governance, regulation and structure
• Customers and community
• Contemporary management
• Water for rural, remote and regional communities
• Sustainable industries

Submit abstracts online until 14 September.


Other News

creek bedPerth dams record lowest inflow since records began in 1911

IDA World Congress – Desalination industry embraces conservation as vital ally

Water scarcity a global mega trend worth investing in

Emilio Gabbrielli appointed President of the IDA

Tugun desalination plant back online permanently from summer 2020

USAID Desal Prize finalists test their technologies in New Mexico


Gold Industry Sponsors

We are grateful for the generous support of our Gold Industry Sponsors.

Valoriza Water Australia     Osmoflo     GHD

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