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Solar desalination

Harrison, D.G., Mathew, K. and Ho, G.E.ORCID: 0000-0001-9190-8812 (1991) Solar desalination. In: Seminar on appropriate technology for remote communities, 28 August pp. 63-67.

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Many inland community water sources have salinities in the range of 3000-6000 ppm, making it unsuitable for drinking water supply. Nitrate and fluoride are also often found in concentrations higher than the recommended standard. In places where surface water sources are not available or are limited, rainfall is low and groundwater salinity is high, the only possible supply of drinking water is from desalination.

Solar distillation was, until recently, the world's leading desalination technology. Its appropriateness for remote community water supply however is questionable. Reverse osmosis desalination has now superseded distillation and has been applied in the provision of drinking water worldwide.

Reverse osmosis is a pressure driven membrane separation technique which has traditionally required very high pressures. Recently, low pressure membranes have been developed which operate at much lower pressures and, though not suited to seawater desalination, are ideal for the treatment of brackish water allowing a high production rate and a lower energy demand.

The process has, however, remained a highly technical one requiring skilled supervision and ongoing maintenance. Its appropriateness for application in remote communities is therefore doubtful. Further, its energy demand, even with low pressure membranes, has made its adaptation to solar power an extremely expensive option.

The Remote Area Developments Group (RADG) of Murdoch University has been investigating the process with a view to adapting it for remote applications.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
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