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Desalination: A National Perspective 2 Historical and Contemporary Context for Desalination Humankind has long used basic desalination processes to create drinking water, but advances in research and development over the past 40 years have led to large increases in the use of desalination worldwide. This chapter describes the status of desalination use in the United States and globally. The history of support for research and development that led to today’s technological advancements is then described, followed by an assessment of current funding support for research and development on desalination. STATUS OF DESALINATION USE Separation of salt from water has a long history, dating from the time when salt, not water, was the precious commodity. As populations grew and demands for fresh water expanded, technologies were developed to produce fresh water in remote locations and on naval ships at sea. Sir Richard Hawkins reported in 1662 that during his voyages to the South Seas, he had been able to supply his men with fresh water by means of shipboard distillation (Birkett, 2003). In 1852, a British patent was issued for a distillation device (Simon, 1998). The island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles was the first place to make a major commitment to desalination, and plants have operated there since 1928. In 1938, a major seawater desalination plant was built in what is now Saudi Arabia (Cooley et al., 2006). Global desalination water production capacity has been increasing exponentially since 1960 to its current value of 42 million m3/day, as seen in Figure 2-1. Of this global cumulative desalination capacity, approximately 37 million m3/day is considered to be operational. This capacity includes seawater and brackish water desalination plants for municipal, industrial, agricultural, power, military, and demonstration ap-
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Desalination: A National Perspective FIGURE 2-1. Cumulative capacity of installed desalination plants in the United States and worldwide from 1950 to 2006. The capacity of desalination plants that are online or presumed online in 2006 is shown as point data. Because this chart includes plants that have been decommissioned, the final cumulative capacity exceeds current operating capacity. Figure based on data taken from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence. plications, among others. These data were collected for the International Desalination Association’s Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory, which also includes facilities that use desalination technologies (e.g., reverse osmosis, nanofiltration) to remove salinity in the treatment of wastewater for reuse/reclamation, although reuse is not a focus of this report. The worldwide desalination capacity has approximately doubled since 1995 and continues to grow steadily. Nearly half (47 percent) of the current online global desalination capacity is located in the Middle East (Figure 2-2). North America, Europe, and Asia each have about 15 percent of the global online desalination capacity (GWI, 2006b). The choice of desalination technology is a site-specific combination of many factors, including energy availability and form, source water quality, and other local conditions. Globally, thermal and membrane processes are the two major processes in use. In the United States, reverse osmosis and other membrane systems account for nearly 96 percent of U.S. online desalination capacity (see Figure 2-3) and 100 percent of the municipal desalination capacity (Mickley, 2006). Desalination tech-
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Desalination: A National Perspective FIGURE 2-2. Global online desalination capacity. SOURCE: Figure based on data from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence.
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Desalination: A National Perspective FIGURE 2-3. Percentage of total capacity of currently operating desalination plants by technology (a) worldwide and (b) in the United States (GWI, 2006b). These data include municipal and nonmunicipal (e.g., industry, power) desalination facilities. Figure based on data from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence. nologies are described in detail in Chapter 4. Desalination plants have been built in every state in the UnitedStates, although nearly half of the plants are small facilities built for specific industrial needs. By 2005, approximately 1,100 desalination plants larger than 100 m3/day (0.3 million gallons per day [MGD]) were online (or were presumed online). These plants have a total capacity of around 5.7 million m3/day (1,500 MGD)—less than 0.01 percent of U.S. municipal and industrial water use (see Chapter 3). Between 2000 and 2005, the reported online desalination capacity in the United States increased by around 41 percent (Figure 2-1; GWI, 2006b). Three of the four states with the greatest installed capacity—Florida, California, and Texas—are coastal (see Figure 2-4). The fourth, Arizona, is an arid state with limited water supply sources. A large plant built by the U.S. government in Yuma, Arizona, to desalinate Colorado River water discharge is included in this estimate, but this plant has never operated outside of short test periods. Two-thirds of the U.S. desalination capacity is used for municipal water supply at roughly 300 facilities (Figure 2-5). Industry is also a sizeable user of desalination in the United States, with 18 percent of the national desalination capacity. Seawater desalination reflects only a small portion (8 percent) of the
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Desalination: A National Perspective FIGURE 2-4. States with more than 1 percent of the U.S. current desalination capacity considering plants that are currently operating or are presumed to be operating. The total reported capacity is subdivided by end user according to four categories: municipal, industrial, power, and other (including military, irrigation, discharge, tourism, and demonstration). SOURCE: Figure based on data from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence. FIGURE 2-5. Percentage of total capacity of currently operating U.S. desalination plants by end user. SOURCE: Figure based on data from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence.
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Desalination: A National Perspective online capacity in the United States, but globally, 60 percent of the online desalination capacity relies upon seawater as source water (GWI, 2006b). Instead, the United States currently uses desalination technologies primarily to treat brackish water (77 percent of online capacity; see Figure 2-6). The remaining capacity is primarily dedicated to desalinating wastewater and providing pure water for high-quality industrial purposes. Desalination processes can create potable water from many different source water qualities. The water quality of seawater varies from location to location, but average seawater contains mostly chloride and sodium ions and also low concentrations of ions such as bromide and boron, which can be potentially troublesome in membrane desalination processes (Table 2-1; see also Chapter 5). Brackish waters vary greatly in ionic composition across the country depending on their hydrogeologic origin. Table 2-1 reveals some of the variation in three brackish groundwaters and one surface water, but they are not necessarily representative of the possible variations. Each site listed in Table 2-1 is used as the source water or is near the source for an active desalination plant or one that is under consideration. Total dissolved solids concentration varies in these waters, as does the concentration of minor ions such as selenium, FIGURE 2-6. Percentage of total capacity of currently operating U.S. desalination plants by source water (GWI, 2006b). In this data set, brackish water is defined as water with total dissolved solids (TDS) between 500 and 15,000 mg/L, and pure water is that with TDS below 500 mg/L. Figure based on data from the 19th IDA Worldwide Desalting Plant Inventory (GWI, 2006b) and reproduced with kind permission of Global Water Intelligence.
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Desalination: A National Perspective TABLE 2-1. Examples of Variation in Water Quality Used as Source Water for Desalination Ion (mg/L) Average Seawatera El Paso Water Utilities, TX Airport Wellsb Indian Wells Valley Water District, CA*c Sarasota County, FL Welld Colorado River Water near Andrade, COe TDS 35,000 3,170 1,630 1,180 1,021 Chloride 19,000 1,370 236 27.1 181 Sodium 10,500 745 333 24.6 185 Sulfate 2,700 301 570 609 342 Magnesium 1,350 38.4 49 70.1 38.3 Calcium 410 176 164 166 104 Potassium 390 15.9 6.1 4.02 5.7 Bicarbonate 142 75 370 144 160 Bromide 67 0.05 - - - Strontium 8 - 1.55 - 1.4 Silica 6.4 29.4 45 - 14.2 Boron 4.5 - 1.74 - - Fluoride 1.3 0.61 1 - 0.5 Nitrate 3.0 0.11 72 - 2.6 Arsenic 0.003 - 0.0052 - 0.0035 Uranium 0.003 - 0.080 - 0.0038 Selenim 0.00009 - 0.059 - 0.0023 * Equal blend of four wells. - No data. SOURCES: a Hem, 1986; b J. Balliew, El Paso Water Utilities, personal communication, 2007; c Yallaly et al., 2007; d Brustlin, 2007; e USGS, 2006. arsenic, and silica, posing unique challenges to the design of desalination processes. In some cases the challenge is in creating a quality product water; in others the challenge is safely and cost-effectively disposing of the resulting concentrate. HISTORY OF DESALINATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT The notable increase in the use of desalination over the past 40 years (Figure 2-1) is to a great extent the result of a long history of research and development efforts. Early research on desalination was conducted during World War II to satisfy freshwater needs in remote locations, and the United States and other countries continued that work after the war (Cooley et al., 2006). A major effort funded by the U.S. government began with the Saline Water Conversion Act of 1952, which established the Office of Saline Water (OSW). Housed in the Department of the Interior,
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Desalination: A National Perspective the OSW funded research aimed at developing processes to recover drinking water from the oceans and brackish groundwater sources. Basic and applied research projects were initiated by the OSW with universities, institutions, and private companies on a wide array of subjects. The projects investigated basic fundamentals, the viability of recently developed processes, and new concepts. In 1974, the OSW became the Office of Water Research and Technology (OWRT). Many of the early projects centered on thermal processes, both evaporative and freezing. Significant work was completed on materials of construction, heat transfer surfaces, corrosion, de-misters, and others. The work was instrumental in assisting the design and construction of some of the first large evaporative desalination systems in the Middle East. The OSW also invested funds into innovative desalination research, such as the development of the Zarchin process (freeze desalination; see Box 4-6) (J. Birkett, Westneck Strategies, personal communication, 2006). During the late 1950s, the OSW funded basic work on the cellulose acetate polymer, the first practical membrane to be developed for desalination. In 1960, Sourirajan and Loeb made the first practical discovery of pressure-driven membrane technology to desalt water (Loeb and Sourirajan, 1963). OSW-funded research also led to the development of the solution-diffusion model of membrane transport, providing a theoretical basis for further advances (Lonsdale et al., 1965). The federal government sponsored a substantial amount of research by companies in development of heterogeneous cellulose acetate, cellulose triacetate, and hollow fiber membranes (both asymmetric and thin film). Federal research and development investments of the 1960s also spawned the commercial use of thin-film composite reverse osmosis technology through the 1970s. In the late 1970s, Riley and Cadotte embarked simultaneously on thin-film composite membranes that would later provide a giant step forward in increased membrane permeability at lower pressure for reverse osmosis (Riley et al., 1976; Cadotte, 1977). During these halcyon years, the United States was looked upon as the undisputed leader in desalination technology. The OSW and the OWRT together spent more than $1.5 billion in 2006 dollars and produced more than 1,200 technical reports (see Figure 2-7).1 This government funding was responsible for the greatest development period in the growth of desalination technology. However, the OSW and the OWRT funded research that was focused on more than just desalination, includ ing general aspects of saline water research, such as the physical properties of saline fluids, hydrocarbon hydrates, and organic solutions. Such 1 For more information, see http://www.usbr.gov/pmts/water/desalnet.html.
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Desalination: A National Perspective FIGURE 2-7. Yearly federal funding for desalination research and development between 1953 and 1980, as appropriated, in constant 2006 dollars. Based on data from the U.S. General Accounting Office (1979) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. reports are applicable to traditional water treatment processes and also led to the development of nonwater applications. Examples of non-water-related developments that came directly from or were enabled by OSW/OWRT technology include kidney dialysis and flue gas desulfurization technology to reduce air pollution. Entrepreneurial companies using OSW/OWRT technologies and reports supported the dramatic expansion of the reverse osmosis membrane market starting in the 1980s. In the mid-1970s, federal research funding began to decline, and in 1982 federal funding for desalination research and development was discontinued except for a small amount of research in the Department of the Interior. The Water Resources Research Act of 1984 continued some desalination research in the U.S. Geological Survey, but the OWRT was closed. Private industry continued research and development with its own funds, although only the largest companies could engage in major research. Twelve years later, mainly due to the efforts of Senator Paul Simon, Congress passed the Water Desalination Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-298) to renew federal research and development in desalination through grants, cooperative agreements, and in-house research. The purpose of the program was to determine the most technologically efficient and cost-effective means by which useable water could be produced from saline
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Desalination: A National Perspective or contaminated water. The Act authorized program funding of $5 million per year for research and studies for 6 years, beginning with fiscal year (FY) 1997, for the Desalination and Water Purification Research and Development Program (DWPR) in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). In addition, $25 million was authorized over 6 years for demonstration and development (Mielke, 1999). The authorized funding was not fully appropriated, and the Act has been extended until 2011. Approximately $13 million was expended by the USBR on desalination research through the DWPR program between 1998 and 2006 (C. Hennig, USBR, personal communication, 2007). The USBR also supports desalination research and development through its science and technology program, its water reclamation and reuse (Title XVI) program, and its Water Quality Improvement Center in Yuma, Arizona, which provides facilities and assistance for pilot plant studies. Other governmental funds have been provided by congressional earmarks (or write-ins), such as the efforts to create the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which received over $20 million in funding through 2006 (C. Hennig, USBR, personal communication, 2007). Separate efforts have been funded by the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and other governmental organizations, each concentrated on specialty areas of desalination to meet their organizational needs. Current research investments are described in more detail in the next section. CURRENT DESALINATION RESEARCH FUNDING AND OVERSIGHT Future direction for advancing and implementing desalination requires an understanding of the current level of research funding and oversight. To this end, a survey of U.S. federal agencies, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations was performed for FY 2005 to 2007 (see Appendix A for a copy of the survey document). Survey participants were asked to provide data on the level of expended funds for their agency’s or organization’s desalination research and to list separately any funding they provided for desalination construction and for water reuse research. Federal agencies were also queried on the percentage of that funding provided in the form of a congressional write-in as opposed to that which was requested in the president’s budget for that year. All entities were asked to provide the percentages of desalination funding in basic research, applied research, and development according to the definitions of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (see Box 2-1). All entities were also queried on the percentages of their research activi-
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Desalination: A National Perspective ties that they considered to be high or low risk (as defined by the agency themselves) and short (< 3 years) or long term (> 3 years). Federal funding of desalination research as reported in the survey is summarized in Table 2-2. The single largest federal sponsor of desalination research funding in recent years has been the USBR. The ONR, Sandia National Laboratory, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have also expended significant funds in support of desalination research. The majority of federally funded desalination research is considered to be either applied research or development. Only NSF reports 80 percent of their research to be basic research, although ONR and several of the national laboratories also support some basic research. A significant percentage of the research funded through federal channels is considered by the agencies to be high-risk and long-term research. Examples of federal research currently under way include the following: developing a forward osmosis water purification prototype, by the USBR; investigating computational fluid dynamics for advanced membrane design, by Sandia National Laboratory; demonstrating novel components for use in desalination, through the ONR; quantifying the fresh and saline groundwater resources of the Salt Basin in New Mexico, by the U.S. Geological Survey; BOX 2-1 Research Definitions The Office of Management and Budget defines three categories of research (OMB, 2003): Basic Research—“Basic research is defined as systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.” Applied Research—“Applied research is defined as systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.” Development—“Development is defined as systematic application of knowledge or understanding, directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements.”
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Desalination: A National Perspective TABLE 2-2. Significant Federal Desalination Research Funding in Fiscal Years 2005-2007 Research and Development Funding Expended (FY 2005 and 2006) or Appropriated (FY 2007) (millions) Percent of Funding as Earmarks Research Type (percent) Percent High Riska Percent Long Term Agency FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 Basic Applied Develop. Army 0.8 0.8 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 100 0 0 Argonne Natl. Lab 0.07 0.3 0.2 0 0 0 0 70 30 10 20 Lawrence Livermore Natl. Lab 0.1 0.1 0.1 0 0 0 100 0 0 70 100 Oak Ridge Natl. Lab 0 0.08 0.08 0 0 0 50 50 0 100 0 Sandia Natl. Lab 3.0 4.0 0 100 100 n/a 40 30 30 50 70 National Science Foundation 3.0 3.0 3.0 0 0 0 80 20 0 50 80 Office of Naval Researchb 4.0 4.2 1.0 100 100 100 40 40 20 40 80 Bureau of Reclamation 11.8 10.9 3.9 60 57 0 0 60 40 60 60 U.S. Geological Survey 0.8 0.9 0.9 0 0 0 0 84 16 16 100 Total 3.6 24.2 10.1 NOTE: The Environmental Protection Agency, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and National Energy Technology Laboratory were also surveyed, but they reported that no funds were expended or appropriated for desalination research for these agencies in FY 2005-2007; n/a = not applicable. a Each agency determined its own definition of high risk research. b The ONR also has additional funding ($7.7M, 4.5M, and 2.3M for FY 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively) for development of the Expeditionary Unit Water Purification, a 379 m3/day (0.1 MGD) portable water desalination and water treatment unit for military deployment to remote field locations or to civilians in cases of water emergencies. These demonstration funds are not included here in the research and development funding totals.
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Desalination: A National Perspective developing processes to remove marketable mineral by-products from concentrate for inland desalination, through Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; developing new chemicals to more effectively clean desalination membranes, through Argonne National Laboratory; and developing active fouling-resistant nanofiltration and reverse osmosis membranes, through the NSF. Federal appropriations in desalination research declined significantly in FY 2007 as compared to FY 2005 and FY 2006 (see Table 2-2). This is at least partly attributable to the absence of congressional earmarks associated with continuing resolutions under which most agencies were operating in FY 2007. The absence of earmarks most significantly affected the budgets of the USBR, ONR, and Sandia National Laboratory. The importance of earmarks in determining the magnitude of federal spending on desalination research underscores the fact that such federal investments are not integrated and that the resulting research and development are not conducted in a strategically purposeful fashion. Thus, there is a strong need for a strategic and coordinated approach to federal desalination research. Several states, most notably California, have begun to direct their own budgetary resources toward desalination research and development to meet their immediate water supply concerns. Florida and Texas also sponsor such research, although on a much smaller scale, as shown in Table 2-3. California’s efforts, pursuant to Proposition 50, a publicly approved referendum, provided nearly $50 million for desalination research, development, and construction in 2005-2006 (state construction funding is listed separately in Table 2-5). This program is one of the largest publicly funded desalination research programs ever established. The states report that the research that they fund is largely low risk and focused on the attainment of short-term results. Research topics currently supported through state funding include the following: Location-specific feasibility evaluations for desalination concentrate management, Project management and technical support services for desalination and concentrate management studies, Location-specific feasibility of co-locating seawater treatment facilities with power plants, and Concentrate reduction/zero liquid discharge demonstration.
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Desalination: A National Perspective TABLE 2-3. Significant State Desalination Research Funding in Fiscal Years 2005-2007 Research and Development Funding Expended (FY 2005 and 2006) or Appropriated (FY 2007) (millions) Percent Research by Type % High Risk % Long Term State FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 Basic Applied Develop. CA 14.0 11.9 0.4 0 17 83 7 0 FL 0.4 0.5 0.4 0 40 60 0 25 TX 0.8 1.6 1.6 0 12 88 0 0 Total 15.2 13.9 2.4 NOTE: The Florida agencies included in this table are the South Florida Water Management District and the St. Johns River Water Management District. The California agencies/programs included in the above results are the Proposition 50 program, the California Energy Commission, and the State Water Resources Control Board of California, which supports desalination research through the WateReuse Foundation. Construction funding provided through the Proposition 50 program is tallied separately in Table 2-5. Texas funding comes through the Texas Water Development Board. Nonprofit foundations and institutes such as American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWARF), the Water Environment Research Federation (WERF), and the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) have also provided funding, albeit at modest levels as shown in Table 2-4. The WateReuse Foundation also sponsors desalination research, but those funding data are not tabulated here because the funding comes from other agencies and is already accounted for elsewhere in this survey. The data suggest that few nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in desalination research and that the research funding they provide is fairly small. Less than $0.8 million is expended annually by these foundations combined. Foundation-sponsored research is generally short-term, low-risk, applied research, although NWRI supports some basic and high-risk research. Examples of research supported through these nonprofit organizations include the following: Investigation of regional solutions for disposing of concentrate, Zero liquid discharge and volume minimization for inland desalination, Feed water intake systems for desalination plants, Desalination facility design and operation for maximum energy efficiency, Development of smart nanofiltration membranes, and
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Desalination: A National Perspective Crystallization to enhance two-stage reverse osmosis recovery. Further comparisons are possible from the survey results. Nearly all funding for basic research (as defined by OMB) comes from the federal government, although the federal government also provides significant funding toward applied research and development. Nonprofit organizations tend to support applied research, and state funds primarily support development projects, including feasibility studies and pilot testing. Table 2-5 provides a 3-year comparison for FY 2005-2007 of total federal, state, and nonprofit foundation funding for desalination research, desalination construction, and funding for water reuse research. The significant drop in desalination research funding provided by federal sources is accompanied by a similar decrease in desalination construction funding, reflecting the impact of the continuing budget resolutions on desalination research funding. State funding appears to be moving away from research and into construction in this 3-year scenario, although this scenario was strongly affected by California’s Proposition 50 funds in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, state construction appropriations exceeded research appropriations by a factor of more than 15. Water reuse research funding has been holding fairly stable across all funding providers at around $15 million annually. This amount is less than desalination TABLE 2-4. Significant Nonprofit Foundation Desalination Research Funding in Fiscal Years 2005-2007 Research and Development Funding Expended (FY 2005 and 2006) or Appropriated (FY 2007) (millions) Percent Research by Type % High Risk % Long Term Foundation FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 Basic Applied Develop. AWWARF 0.51 0.06 0.25 0 100 0 0 15 NWRI 0.27 0.19 0.22 60 40 0 50 <10 WERF 0.02 0.01 0.01 0 100 0 0 0 Total 0.78 0.25 0.47 NOTE: The Water Environment Research Federation (WERF) funding reflects that provided to the WateReuse Foundation in support of desalination research in FY 2005-2007. The WateReuse Foundation is not specifically included in this table, because their desalination research funding is primarily derived from other agencies that are already tallied elsewhere in this survey.
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Desalination: A National Perspective TABLE 2-5. Comparison of Funding from Federal, State, and Foundation Sources to Desalination Research, Desalination Construction, and Water Reuse Research in Fiscal Years 2005-2007 Desalination Research Funding Expended (FY 2005 and 2006) or Appropriated (FY 2007) (millions) Desalination Construction Funding Expended (FY 2005 and 2006) or Appropriated (FY 2007) (millions) Water Reuse Research Funding (millions) FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 Federal 23.6 24.2 10.1 22.8 17.6 9.3 12.6 12.4 10.2 State 15.1 13.8 2.3 10.8 27.2 40.2 0.2 0.4 0.8 Foundation 0.8 0.2 0.5 0 0 0 1.6a 2.0a 4.5 Total 39.5 37.2 12.9 33.6 44.8 49.5 14.4 14.8 15.5 a Foundation funding totals in 2005 and 2006 were adjusted for earmarked funds included in federal totals. research funding for FY 2005 and FY 2006, but slightly greater than desalination research funding in FY 2007. Industrial Research and Development Funding With the demise of OWRT (formerly OSW) in the early 1980s, research and development in desalination became primarily the responsibility of the private sector. Research and development expenditures for private industry tend to be unreported and are considered proprietary information, thus precluding a rigorous, documentable tally of industry research spending on desalination. Nevertheless, the committee used a simple and logical analysis, informed by the considered judgment of those working in the industry, to estimate this research spending. The committee estimates that private industry roughly invests between $100 and $150 million per year in research and development on desalination technology and its applications, far exceeding federal government research spending in desalination. This estimate was made by analyzing the annual reports of Siemans, GE (and the water treatment companies that they acquired), Veolia, Suez Degremont, Dow (Filmtec), Nitto Denko (Hydranautics), Toray, Pall, ITT, and Hyflux—companies that are estimated to represent over 75 percent of the desalination membrane supply market worldwide. For the purpose of this analysis, unless more detailed data were available, the committee assumed that the percent of revenue spent on research and development was equally allocated over all of a company’s business segments.
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Desalination: A National Perspective Based on the judgment of individuals working in the industry, it is reasonable to assume that the majority of research and development funding in industry is directed at low- to moderate-risk projects and that as little as 10 percent of all research and development funding is allocated to high-risk research on novel products and processes, where the outcomes of the research are more uncertain. Based on this assumption, the committee estimates that industry spends roughly $10 to $15 million per year on high-risk research and development to develop proprietary desalination products. This amount of funding is of the same order of magnitude as the annual federal funding over the past 3 years. It should be noted that this estimate does not include venture capital funds, which are typically targeted at developing new technologies and bringing them to market once they are proven in the early research stage. International Governmental Research and Development The committee did not formally assess the magnitude of international funding for desalination research and development, but other countries like Singapore, China, Israel, the European Union, and the United Arab Emirates also fund desalination research and development. For instance, ongoing research programs exist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research Doha Research Plant (KISR, 2007), the Research and Development Center of the Saline Water Conversion Corporation in Saudi Arabia (Al-Sofi, 2001), and the Middle Eastern Desalination Research Center (MEDRC, 2007). The European Commission recently provided nearly 4.7 million Euros for research and development efforts in membrane desalination and solar-powered desalination (European Commission, 2007). The majority of these research and development efforts are focused on improving the desalination processes that use today’s best available technologies. The most significant government-funded research and development investment is in Singapore, where a dedicated office, the Environment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI), has been set up to spearhead the growth of the environment and water industry. The launch of the EWI is to be supported by Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council, which will provide $330 million of research and development funds over the next 5 years (2006-2011) to catalyze the development of the local water industry by funding applications development and high-risk research and development.2 It is not known exactly what portion of these funds will be focused on desalination, but these funds are anticipated to be comparable to or greater than current U.S. government desalination research funding. 2 http://app.mewr.gov.sg/press.asp?id=CDS4096.
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Desalination: A National Perspective CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The history of desalination is centuries long. Following early research and development efforts, there has been an exponential increase in desalination capacity installed both globally and nationally since 1960. Desalination plants, for purposes ranging from municipal water supply to industrial applications, are now in place in every state in the United States. These plants primarily utilize membrane technology and treat mainly brackish water rather than seawater. The exponential growth in desalination in the United States has been made possible by federal funding of more than $1.5 billion in today’s dollars for desalination research and development from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. More recently, the Desalination and Water Purification Research and Development program in the USBR has been the major federal force in desalination research and development, supplemented by significant federal earmarks, although nonfederal funding is increasingly important. The committee’s survey of federal, state, and NGO investments in desalination research and development together with the estimates and analyses of private-sector funding lead to several conclusions. There is no integrated and strategic direction to the federal desalination research and development efforts. Desalination research and development efforts are funded through at least nine federal agencies and laboratories, each with their own research objectives and priorities. The majority of federal desalination research and development funding also comes from congressional earmarks, which limits the ability to develop a steady research program. Federal funding for desalination research declined by nearly 60 percent from FYs 2005 and 2006 to FY 2007, largely due to an absence of earmarks in FY 2007. The results of the survey underscore the need for the development of a national strategic research agenda for desalination. Recommendations to address these concerns are outlined in Chapter 8. Anecdotal evidence suggests that international investments in desalination research and development are greater than current research investments from the U.S. government. Desalination technology is being used to meet water supply demands in over 140 countries around the world, and international support for desalination research appears to be growing. Singapore recently announced a major research initiative to catalyze the development of the country’s water industry. State governments, especially that of California, have made sizeable recent investments in desalination research and development.
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Desalination: A National Perspective The majority of this funding is directed at site-specific or region-specific problems, with heavy emphasis on pilot and demonstration projects. State spending on desalination plant construction has grown rapidly in the past 3 years and has greatly overshadowed spending on desalination research. The private sector appears to fund the majority of desalination research, with total annual spending estimated to be more than twice that of all other surveyed sources of such funding. Based on the judgment of individuals working in the industry, the private sector allocates a smaller fraction of its research portfolio to high-risk desalination research than the federal government. Given the large research and development budgets in private industry, however, high-risk research funding is estimated to be roughly equivalent between the private sector and the government.