Researchers Examine Technology To Desalinate Brackish Water
By Sara Jerome
New research aims to find energy-efficient ways to treat brackish water.
Brackish water is an in-between substance: saltier than freshwater but not as salty as seawater, according to a definition in ScienceDaily.
The research is being conducted at Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, NM. The aim of the research is to make brackish safe for consumption without using tons of power. The hope is to find an extra defense in the battle to save dwindling water supplies.
Specifically, the study will examine "which technology -- photovoltaic reverse osmosis or photovoltaic electrodialysis" is more effective and more efficient at "making brackish water safe," according to Las Cruces Sun-News.
"The goal of the research is to help solve the water scarcity problem experienced by many in the Desert Southwest, using renewable energy resources, rather than fossil fuels, but the findings of their research could potentially help others in remote parts of the world, too," the report said.
Brackish water is more common to the southwestern U.S., according to the EPA. As with saltwater desalination, cleaning up brackish water is controversial because of cost and energy use.
An EPA guidepost: "Note that brackish water filtration and treatment may produce large amounts of waste residuals that require proper disposal and should be considered when choosing desalination technologies."
The EPA pointed to Texas as a spot where utilities are currently cleaning up brackish water for use, including at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant.
According to the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board, it uses previously unusable brackish groundwater supply to "create a new supply of water; water from water." El Paso's desalination facilities "produce 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily making it a critical component of the region's water portfolio."
The use of brackish water is not so new. "The Texas Water Development Board first formally identified brackish groundwater desalination as a supply strategy in the 2007 State Water Plan, though by that point more than 80 desalination plants were already operating around the state," according to the Texas Desalination Association.
Image credit: "brackish water means its easy to float," © 2011 theraT, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/