Comparison of configurations for high-recovery inland desalination systems

Tianyu Qiu, Philip Davies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Desalination of brackish groundwater (BW) is an effective approach to augment water supply, especially for inland regions that are far from seawater resources. Brackish water reverse osmosis (BWRO) desalination is still subject to intensive energy consumption compared to the theoretical minimum energy demand. Here, we review some of the BWRO plants with various system arrangements. We look at how to minimize energy demands, as these contribute considerably to the cost of desalinated water. Different configurations of BWRO system have been compared from the view point of normalized specific energy consumption (SEC). Analysis is made at theoretical limits. The SEC reduction of BWRO can be achieved by (i) increasing number of stages, (ii) using an energy recovery device (ERD), or (iii) operating the BWRO in batch mode or closed circuit mode. Application of more stages not only reduces SEC but also improves water recovery. However, this improvement is less pronounced when the number of stages exceeds four. Alternatively and more favourably, the BWRO system can be operated in Closed Circuit Desalination (CCD) mode and gives a comparative SEC to that of the 3-stage system with a recovery ratio of 80%. A further reduction of about 30% in SEC can be achieved through batch-RO operation. Moreover, the costly ERDs and booster pumps are avoided with both CCD and batch-RO, thus furthering the effectiveness of lowering the costs of these innovative approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-706
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Creative commons : attribution


  • brackish water
  • desalination
  • high recovery
  • reverse osmosis
  • system design


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