Water. desalination + reuse

May/June 2012

Water. Desalination + reuse

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Page 5 of 51

COMMENT Water industry must have faith in its offspring EDITOR' SCORNER TO SAY THAT the water industry is a conservative institution is not going to be revelatory to anyone. Yet it has spawned an offspring like the desalination industry, which is very forward-looking and progres- sive. Project1 19/10/11 10:06 am Page 1 Like any middle-aged parent out of touch with its child, the water industry thinks about desalination in terms of the past – losing sight of many of the new abilities and knowledge the offspring is accumulating. Its general feeling is that desalination is expen- sive and only to be used as a last resort. The article on page 33 of this issue about use of small stand-alone desalination units in remote areas of Indonesia is one example of where a government has taken a leap of faith and provided a much-needed resource in desalination form. The reason is because a piped supply would have been much more expensive to install (and possibly to maintain). Luckily, there are other companies and institutions around the world who can also see the benefits of taking a chance. The Saudi Arabian government's Saline Water Conversion Corporation has always been at the forefront of new technologies, currently putting a lot of effort into solar desalination. The embracing of hybrid technologies and new pretreatment in the kingdom has also been industry-leading. The article proposing a revised design for Carlsbad (see page 17) is based on such developments. The first quarter of this year has seen new membranes launched by three differ- ent manufacturers: NanoH2O, HTI and Lanxess (see Showcase, page 36). They are all claiming improvements in various parameters over existing membranes and are all looking at different markets. If these products are to succeed, some water agencies and original equipment manufacturers are going to have to take a chance and invest in the hope that these membranes will make their water better or cheaper. The most interesting of these membrane providers is perhaps NanoH2O, which is making bold claims for its new Quantum- Flux seawater membranes. Yet some scepti- cism was evident at the recent European De- salination Society conference in Barcelona about whether these claims stand up. One prominent expert (not a competitor), who had crunched the numbers, does not believe they are any better than what is already out there. Others were cautious but more positive. NanoH2O's new investment (see Corporate Changes page 12) would indicate that the money-men believe in the company. The proof of all these products, of course, will be in verifiable commercial installations. So who's going to take the plunge? Robin Wiseman

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