Variable Source Desalination

Project Summary

This project will determine the physical and economic viability of desalting various sources of feed water using a single adaptive reverse osmosis treatment system. The project will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, a desktop study will be performed where the viability of operating a reverse osmosis desalination plant with feed water of various salinities will be examined. In the second phase, a field study will be performed to verify the results of the desktop study.

In 2009, the TWDB and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation staff discussed possible collaborative efforts to assess variable salinity applications in Texas. These discussions resulted in the authorization of a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Science and Technology Program study to assess the viability and to perform a pilot study of the variable desalination project in Texas. The project is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Proposal ID 9316
Team Members:
  • Michelle Chapman, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Frank Leitz, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • John Walp, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Collins Balcombe, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Thomas Michalewicz, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Jorge A. Arroyo, Texas Water Development Board
Project Start Date:
October 2009
Desktop Study Completion Date:
July 2010
Field Study Start Date:
June 20, 2011
Field Study Completion Date:
August 27, 2011
Total Project Cost:
The outcome of this project will help communities that could use water from a variety of sources, including surface water, groundwater, stormwater, municipal wastewater and seawater. This project will also help coastal communities that could treat estuarial water where salinity varies widely with the tides.

Project Details

Project Team

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (project sponsor and participant)
Technical Service Center
P.O. Box 25007
Denver Federal Center
Denver CO 80225-0007

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (project sponsor and participant)
Oklahoma Texas Area Office
5316 Highway 290 West, Suite 110
Austin, TX 78735-8931

Texas Water Development Board (project sponsor and participant)
Innovative Water Technologies Group, Water Science and Conservation
1700 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78711

Brownsville Public Utilities Board (project participant)
1255 North Indiana Avenue
Brownsville, TX 78521

San Patricio Municipal Water District (project participant)
4213 State Highway 361
Ingleside, Texas 78362

Project Milestones

Event Date
Project plan report June 2010
Desktop Study Completion Date July 2010
Presentation at Singapore Water Week July 2010
Site Visit to Determine Field Study Locations February 2011
Final Study Site and Schedule Decisions March 2011
Project Kick-off Workshop TBD
Seawater Field Study Start Date TBD
Seawater Field Study Completion Date TBD
Final Report TBD
Brackish Water Field Study Completion Date June 2011
Brackish Water Field Study Completion Date July 2011

Technical Resource Panel

Ian C. Watson
Executive Director
American Membrane Technology Association
Phone: 772-463-0820

Harry Seah
Director, Technology and Water Quality
Singapore Public Utilities Board

Desmond Lawler, Ph.D.
Nassir I. Al-Rashid Chair in Civil Engineering
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
University of Texas, Austin, TX
Phone: 512-471-4595

Pedro Alvarez, Ph.D., P.E., DEE
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Rice University
Houston, TX 77251-1892
Phone: 713-348-5903

Qilin Li, Ph.D.
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Rice University
Houston, TX 77251-1892
Phone: 713-348-2046

John P. MacHarg
Managing Director/CEO
Affordable Desalination Collaboration
Phone: 650-283-7976

Public Outreach and Technology Transfer

Final Report


Courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, February 2010