From the CEO
Opportunities with poor quality water
Expressions of interest have recently been sought by a number of government authorities to propose creative solutions for large supplies of water which have been impaired. Coupled with drought conditions in the eastern states, and the focus on increasing food production, it seems to be a good opportunity, but each project will need to deliver clever and innovative technical and commercial solutions.
The northern areas of Victoria suffer from a regional salinity problem, with industrial and agricultural wastewaters contributing to a soil salinity, and a barrier to further development. EOIs are currently being considered by a region-wide project steering committee coordinated by Goulburn Valley Water. SA Water has asked for ideas to use an additional 20GL/y of recycled water from Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant. This is located adjacent to the Virginia Vegetable Triangle on the northern Adelaide Plains. Trility already operates a reticulation system to the existing vegetable growers – this will be an expansion of the scheme. But the water is brackish and will probably need some desalination. Up to 68 GL of brackish water is also available from Wellington Dam in WA and submissions are currently being assessed by the WA Department of Water.
There are many other similar issues around Australia. We suffer from a scarcity of fresh water, but we have abundant supplies of impaired water (especially if we include seawater). But fixing impaired water comes at a cost. The key seems to be to find productive and profitable uses where the fresh water, albeit expensive, is a small component of the input cost of production. Sundrop Farms at Port Augusta in South Australia is setting the pace by using solar desalinated seawater, perhaps the most expensive of all, for their 20 hectare high tech greenhouse for vegetable production. Given the increasing demand for food, the opportunity to replicate this principle is inviting and also an opportunity for Australia to get on the front foot technology-wise.
On another topic, I was impressed by the quality of the young professionals I met while at the International Desalination Association World Congress in San Diego in early September. I was introduced to two young PhD students of Iranian background working on electrodialysis projects from New Mexico State University. After talking to them about some of our Australian research, they expressed interest in continuing post-doc work in Australia next year. If anyone is interested in making contact, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll make the introduction.
Chief Executive Officer
0417 996 126
Professor Sandra Kentish is Head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The University of Melbourne. Professor Kentish has broad interests in industrial separations, particularly the use of membrane technology for energy, food and water applications. She has been the Discipline Leader in the CRC for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) for Membrane Technology since 2003. She has also been a member of the NCEDA’s Research Advisory Committee since 2010.
What do you think have been the NCEDA’s key achievements?
The key achievement of the NCEDA has been in developing a community of informed scientists, policy makers and engineers. This community can drive the development of future desalination facilities and also engage with the broader population of Australia so that they understand the benefits of this approach.
What have been the challenges, and how has the NCEDA met these?
The challenge has clearly been the perception, at least on the east coast of Australia, that desalination is not necessary. Even though there are hundreds of reverse osmosis plants throughout Australia, many people still believe that we can survive on storage dams and storm water alone. There is an urgent need to communicate to the public that growing population pressures, including the demand for food production that this realises; and the threat of climate change, means that desalination of both brackish water and seawater is an increasing reality. The research, training programs and public outreach provided by the NCEDA has allowed us to make significant progress towards this goal.
With the growth in the world’s population and changes in climatic conditions, how can the challenges of future water security be met?
Future water security relies on accessing the 97% of the water on the planet that is represented by seawater. However, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change we need to develop mechanisms to remove the salt from these water sources using minimal quantities of fossil fuel based energy. Emerging technologies such as membrane distillation, capacitive deionisation and forward osmosis will allow us to achieve this objective. These technologies have all been the focus of NCEDA projects.
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?
Australia punches well above its weight in scientific research and this is most definitely the case in water research. We can be a major player in developing novel technologies and bringing them to a commercial reality.
Membrane Flocculation Hybrid System as Pre-Treatment to Brackish and Seawater Reverse Osmosis Desalination System: Emphasis on Chemical Use Reduction and Recovery
Lead Researcher: Prof. S. Vigneswaran, University of Technology, Sydney
With State Water NSW, Coliban Water, Steri-Flow Filtration Systems
This project led by the University of Technology, Sydney established and evaluated a novel submerged membrane flocculation hybrid system (SMFHS) as a cost-effective pre-treatment to SWRO. The aim was to reduce the use of chemical and flocculated sludge disposal through the selection of alternative chemicals, pre-adsorption and resource recovery from the chemical sludge.
The project led to novel and practical outcomes for RO desalination. It resulted in an energy efficient, compact submerged membrane flocculation hybrid pre-treatment system that reduced the organic fouling in an RO system. Alleviating membrane fouling reduces the operational cost of RO and increases the financial viability of small-scale desalination processes. The project also reduced the use of chemicals and subsequent sludge production through the use of alternative chemicals, and effective additional pre-treatment such as pre-adsorption.
Prof. Vigneswaran has achieved a record of outstanding achievements over the last 25 years in developing innovative technologies in the area of water treatment, wastewater management, and water reuse. His research group has contributed significantly to physico-chemical and biological pre-treatment systems for desalination systems with a focus on reducing energy consumption and membrane fouling. Prof. Vigneswaran has recently patented a biofouling detection method.
He is Director of the Centre for Technologies for Water and Wastewater (CTWW) at UTS and Secretary of the IWA’s Specialist group on Rainwater Harvesting. He is one of the Editors of the Journal of Water Supply (Aqua), Water Science Technology (Journals of International Water Association), and editorial board member of Separation and Purification Technology and the Korean Journal of Environmental Engineering.
Prof. Vigneswaran has over 350 publications including 3 books on Water Treatment and Water, Wastewater and Sludge Filtration. He has been a Visiting Professor at universities and research institutions around the world to work with experts on filtration and membranes, and funded by UN programs and several governments to run international clean technology and environmental solutions workshops and symposiums.
The NCEDA’s very own Crystal Clear, the salty water drop who talks with our desalination expert Bob on the video ‘Crystal Clear – the Story of Desalination”, visited the USA in September. As part of the International Desalination Association’s outreach to the community, students from five schools came to the Congress to learn about the science of desalination through an excellent program led by IDA stalwarts Lisa Henthorne of Water Standard and Dr Jim Birkett.
The NCEDA video was a real hit in helping students understand not only reverse osmosis technology, but to gain an appreciation of the broader issues of water scarcity, energy and the environment. The students also got to see the extensive trade exhibition and were introduced to the ideas, equipment and people who make desalination a reality.
An International Water Reuse and Desalination Symposium
November 4-5, The Pullman, Brisbane
The excitement is starting to build at the NCEDA as the International Water Reuse and Desalination Symposium that we are co-hosting in Brisbane on 4 & 5 November is not far away.
The Symposium has attracted an impressive line-up of more than 40 presenters from the US and Australia who will facilitate panel and audience discussion on industry relevant research in climate resilient water sources.
The NCEDA’s Chairman, Keith Cadee and the Centre’s Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Wendell Ela will present at the Symposium. Other speakers, including more than 20 CEOs and General Managers from industry, government and utility sectors will discuss the relevance of applied research outcomes from the last 5 years, and identify industry needs and challenges for the next 5 years.
As a supporter of the NCEDA, we would be delighted if you would come to the Symposium and participate in these discussions. The Centre is working with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence and the US-based WateReuse Research Foundation to stage the event.
The benefits of the 2-day event include:
– Access to senior leaders from the research, government, utility and private sectors in the US and Australia
– Eight focused panel sessions including: Technology and Innovation, Economic Value, Water for Drinking, Water for Industry, Guidelines and Regulations, Stakeholder Engagement, Translating Research into Impact and Sharing Research across Borders.
– Associated events including: a networking dinner at Customs House, a Women in Water Leadership breakfast and a half day research directions workshop organised by WSAA.
For the two-day program and online registration click here.
We look forward to seeing you in Brisbane in November.
Keynote speakers for DesalTech 2015 included a diverse group of topic sessions featuring 50 presentations on emerging research in forward osmosis, membrane distillation, pressure retarded osmosis, reverse electrodialysis, and other desalination technologies.
Australia was well represented by a group that included Prof. Wendell Ela (Murdoch University/NCEDA), Prof. Stephen Gray (Victoria University), Prof. “Vigi” Vigneswaran (University of Technology, Sydney), A/Prof. Pierre LeClech (University of New South Wales) and Neil Palmer (NCEDA).
Approximately 200 delegates from 22 countries attended and it was heartening to see so many eminent professors and upcoming young scientists engage in these areas of desalination research.
The presentations are now available and can be downloaded here.
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
The 2016 AWA/IWA Young Water Professionals Conference – 18-19 Feb 2016, UNSW, Sydney
10th Global Water Summit – 19-20 April 2016, Abu Dhabi, UAE
OzWater16 – 10-12 May 2016, Melbourne
IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition 2016 – 9-13 October 2016, Brisbane.
The NCEDA is grateful for the generous support of our Gold Industry Sponsors.