American Water goes Dutch on desalination technology project

American Water Works Co Inc is partnering with Netherlands-based organisations Vitens, RWB Waterservices, University of Twente, and WE Consult to launch a project on innovation in desalination technology.

The “Clean Operator” project aims to reduce the costs, environmental impact and carbon footprint of desalination. Under the Clean Operator project, the partners will develop new technologies for seawater desalination and the treatment of surface water and wastewater using reverse osmosis (RO) membranes.

With a budget of €1.5–2 million for 2009–2011, the Clean Operator project will deliver operational technology for use in existing and new membrane plants. The fundamental research will be performed by the University of Twente, assisted by Vitens, the largest water supply company in the Netherlands, and WE Consult, a Dutch water technology consultancy firm. RWB Waterservices, a Dutch supplier of water treatment equipment, and WE Consult will focus on the development of the new technology, while Vitens and American Water will concentrate on applying the technology in their water treatment plants.

“Many desalination plants suffer from membrane fouling, and in some cases the membranes need frequent chemical cleaning, which increases operational costs and the emission of waste chemicals and carbon dioxide to the environment,” said Dr Mark LeChevallier, director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship at American Water. “The goal of the Clean Operator project is to reduce operational costs through a sustainable operation resulting in cleaner membranes.”

This project is the first official partnership in American Water’s new Innovation Development Process, an initiative that leverages the company’s expertise to develop, test and produce new technologies for industrial use. It combines American Water’s research and development, technical expertise, and infrastructure assets with innovations from within the company and from business partners to create greater efficiencies in the areas of water reuse, desalination, wastewater operations and bio-energy.