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RO System Design in Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facilities

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As population and industry increase around the world, the demand for new potable water sources expands as well. Finding reliable sources of new water is often difficult, especially in areas where water is scarce to begin with such as the desert southwest of the United States. In other places, like south Florida, rainfall is typically abundant, but periodic droughts, population increases and environmental needs also create water shortages. Water providers in California, Florida, and other areas in the world are turning to highly treated recycled wastewater as a source of new, reliable, safe water that was previously not used for beneficial purposes.

By applying state-of-the-art advanced treatment technologies, wastewater can be treated to exceed all primary and secondary drinking water standards, resulting in near-distilled water quality. This water can be used for industry, seawater barriers, recharge of groundwater aquifers, and is being considered for augmentation of drinking water supply reservoirs. The most common sources of wastewater to be treated are secondary effluent or filtered tertiary effluent. Reverse Osmosis (RO) is the key process used in creating this high quality water, providing a reliable barrier to separate out most of the minerals, contaminants, and other constituents that can degrade the product water quality. The RO system, however, cannot be used alone, and prefiltration, chemical conditioning, post RO treatment product water stabilization, pumping systems, membrane cleaning systems, and other appurtenances are required to form a complete advanced treatment system.

This paper will investigate where successful wastewater RO plants have been implemented and why RO was selected over some competing processes. It will also provide some rules of thumb for designing advanced treatment RO systems and their appurtenances. Pilot testing is often required to establish the pre-treatment requirements and sustainable production rates, since there can be significant variations in wastewater quality. Finally, some lessons learned and the costs to implement wastewater RO will be highlighted. While advanced treatment systems can be expensive relative to wastewater treatment, they do provide a new source of reliable, high quality water from a previously unused resource.
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Keywords: Groundwater Replenishment System; Miami; South District Water Reclamation Plant; UV; groundwater recharge; microfiltration; recycled water; reverse osmosis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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