World Water Day 2020: Desalination technologies provide safe and sustainable drinking water
UNESCO estimates that around 2.2 billion people live without access to safe, clean drinking water. By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year. With seawater making up 97.5% of the world's water resource, low energy desalination solutions will be a vital component of providing sufficient levels of good-quality drinking water for a growing population.
REvivED water brings together ten partners from six European countries to address the drinking water challenge. The project focuses on electrodialysis technology: using an electric current to make salts and other ions move out of salty water across a semi-permeable membrane. This approach has been successfully implemented across a range of settings.
Clean water for communities most in need
The groundwater in these remote areas is high in salt, causing health issues in the local population. Electrodialysis technology in the REvivED system removes this excess salt without affecting the other minerals in the water that help keep us healthy. The community systems also include electrochemical cells that produce their own chlorine to disinfect the water and make it safe to drink. Each REvivED water unit can produce up to 2,000 litres of fresh drinking water per day.
Compared to other water treatment options, the REvivED water community units are more durable and have lower operating costs. REvivED water provides free spare parts and training to local partners to ensure that the community systems can be operated and maintained for many years to come.
The systems are monitored and controlled remotely using signals sent through the mobile phone network. Each unit is fitted with a SIM card that relays information to technicians at Phaesun, a German company that specializes in off-grid solar powered systems. Using this data, Phaesun can monitor how the desalination systems are operating and make any adjustments that are needed.
Florian Martini, project engineer at Phaesun, carried out unit installations in Tanzania:
"It was wonderful to see how modern technology fits into the traditional way of life of the Maasai." "A great advantage is that, unlike other desalination technologies, no waste products are produced and no diesel is needed to operate the systems. The clean water is highly appreciated!"
Improving desalination technology and sustainability at an industrial level
REvivED water has also tested new ways of applying the electrodialysis innovations to industrial-scale desalination plants, aiming to achieve more energy efficient and cost-effective solutions. A new, multi-stage electrodialysis system for industrial seawater desalination has been successfully piloted at Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, at the Burriana desalination plant in Spain, REvivED water has piloted the combination of ED with traditional reverse osmosis systems.
The project is now looking to extend these approaches to a commercial setting.