Desert community MD trial produces first water

First water was produced in mid-November 2013 by the membrane distillation plant set up in the Great Victoria Desert, Australia, by a team from the National Centre for Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA).

NCEDA Rockingham facility manager Mike Blackwood and technician George Horvarth set up the desert site over the past 18 months, equipping the bore and recommissioning the memsys unit. Once the unit was operational, it was handed over to Murdoch University research assistant Kane Low for further testing.

Blackwood says first water was produced in mid-November from the hypersaline groundwater through the memsys pilot plant, and staff reduced the conductivity of the feedwater from 68,000 μS/cm (concentrated brine at 88,000 μS/cm) to 11 μS/cm. He says the concentrate was nearly 90,000 μS/cm, compared with seawater that is around 50,000 μS/cm.

The concentrate is clear with no immediate evidence of chemical scaling problems. Low is remaining onsite to ensure continuous operation and oversee the field trial seeking to provide a supply for the Tjuntjuntjara community.

Currently the unit is running on power from the existing generators and the feed water is fed from a hypersaline bore 300 m away (100 m deep). The distillate and brine are discharged into a soakwell near the shed housing the memsys unit. Being a trial plant, the amount of distillate produced is currently too small to supplement the community’s water supply.