As California farmers face zero water allocations following one of the driest periods on record in the US state, one central valley farm is partnering with Desalitech, the supplier of high-efficiency water solutions, to irrigate farmland from a brackish aquifer in the San Joaquin Valley.
This aquifer is one of California's largest, but due to increasing salinity levels after decades of pumping and drought, it has been rendered unusable for many kinds of agriculture. Fabbri Ag Services is using a Desalitech ReFlex reverse osmosis system featuring Closed Circuit Desalination (CCD) technology to provide affordable irrigation water and minimise waste generation and energy consumption. By utilising a dormant brackish aquifer, Fabbri Ag Services is making efficient use of local water resources without burdening the state's already strained reservoir system. The installed Desalitech reverse osmosis system provides Fabbri with 300 gallons per minute of irrigation water to supply about 40 acres of land at a farm near Bakersfield, California. The water it produces is highly pure so that it can be used to support high value crops like almonds and grapes. "Water is essential for agriculture,'' said Jeff Fabbri, CEO of Fabbri Ag Services. ''Desalitech is providing a lifeline that will help us sustain crops when drought conditions persist and water deliveries are halted. Desalitech's solutions are uniquely capable of purifying water with variable composition, making it possible for us to use this abundant but poor water source. We are able to maximise water use efficiency and consume less energy than with any other system we've seen. Desalting the aquifer represents a sustainability plan that will let us diversify our water sources in years when supply is low." Conventional reverse osmosis processes are unmanageable for most inland applications because of the high costs of energy consumption and disposing residuals from the process. Desalitech's ReFlex reverse osmosis system reduces the costs of reverse osmosis treatment by efficiently managing the concentration of salts, thereby maximising water utilisation, and cutting energy consumption by 35% or more. This changes the economics of inland desalination, making it possible for Fabbri Ag Services to affordably supplement irrigation supplies at its locations. "Water is one of the most valuable and scarce assets California farmers have, and there has rarely been a shortage as severe as the one the state is experiencing now," said Nadav Efraty, Desalitech CEO. "Agricultural water supply is an economic issue that affects more than just California farmers. It affects food prices and the availability for consumers across the country. That's why we're proud that Desalitech's advanced water solutions address both economics and environmental impact, providing a reliable, flexible water resource that can help sustain farms through severe drought." Desalitech's ReFlex system has three distinct advantages, the company says, that make inland reverse osmosis desalination 'not only possible but attractive':
High Water Use Efficiency: The Fabbri installation operates at a recovery rate of at least 87%, and has already been demonstrated at 94%; this results in up to a four-fold reduction in concentrate volume compared to conventional RO systems that typically top out at 75% recovery.
High Reliability: Brackish groundwater is notorious for changing composition and temperature on a seasonal or sometimes daily basis. Desalitech's system automatically adapts to feed water variations, producing consistent product water quality with reduced operating costs. Low Energy Consumption: The ReFlex system delivers superior performance while consuming 35% less energy than conventional RO systems that would require multiple stages to achieve similar recovery rates. Compared to thermal or solar desalination systems, energy requirements can be divided by a factor of 20.