UTEP awarded $ 2 million for desalination research

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in the USA has received $ 2 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) to establish a desalination and water management research program.

UTEP’s Center for Inland Desalination Systems will use existing research produced at the university and El Paso’s desalination plant to establish the university as a leader in the field.

The TETF grant will be matched with $ 2 million from UTEP and The University of Texas System. UTEP also will raise another $ 2 million in sponsored research from industry partners, to bring the total funding to $ 6 million.

At a press conference on 23 October 2008, Texas governor Rick Parry said, “Saltwater desalination is a viable remedy for the water shortages we face in inland areas of our state and can help create a sustainable water supply for cities such as El Paso. The state’s investment through the TETF will help position UTEP as a leading center of research and commercialization for this innovative technology and attract top experts in the field to Texas.”

The UTEP Center for Inland Desalination Systems will be led by Tom Davis, a nationally recognized expert in desalination technology. Davis, who comes to UTEP from the University of South Carolina, has 13 US patents and more than 40 years of research experience. He is the founder of ZDD Inc, which signed a commercialization agreement with Dow Chemical Company for its Zero Discharge Desalination technology in 2006.

The center will partner with the city’s 27.5 MGD desalination plant – a joint project of the El Paso Water Utilities and the US Army – to develop and implement technologies to create alternative water sources in Texas and across the globe. The El Paso desalination plant uses reverse osmosis to treat brackish groundwater from the Hueco Bolson aquifer

Additionally, several desalination-related areas have been identified as having potential commercial applications. Some examples include mining the brine concentrate produced during the osmosis process, developing small-scale portable desalination equipment to be used in remote locations, and developing processes that can reduce energy and water use during desalination.