UTEP, NMSU Collaborate in Effort to Rebuild Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
Students from Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), a student group from The University of Texas at El Paso's College of Engineering, assess damage done to a suspension bridge in Utuado, Puerto Rico, in this January photo. The bridge was destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Students from UTEP and New Mexico State University student group Aggies Without Limits partnered to help rebuild the bridge as part of a relief effort led by Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., clinical professor in UTEP's Department of Civil Engineering. Photo: Courtesy
Desal Prize and Honduras
The Desal Prize
On March 21, 2014, the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development and the United States Bureau of Reclamation announced the launch of the Desal Prize, which aimed to incentivize the creation of environmentally sustainable small-scale brackish water desalination systems that can provide potable water for humans, as well as water appropriate for crops in developing countries.
The winning innovations were selected based on fulfillment of several criteria, including:
- Provides water that is both potable and appropriate for crop irrigation
- Powered solely by renewable energy
- High system water recovery and concentrate minimization
- Minimizes environmental impact
- And is cost efficient, durable, and easy to maintain
A total of 68 proposals from 29 countries were submitted to the Desal Prize. The CIDS team was one of 9 teams selected to submit a video concept for review and one of five teams that competed in Alamogordo, New Mexico, at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in April 2015. The competition challenged all teams’ capabilities and equipment, and CIDS won 2 ndplace, including a $60,000 prize!
Desal Prize Technology Development - ZDD for Rural Applications
A team from CIDS, including Malynda Cappelle, the late Tom Davis, and Shane Walker (link to Expertise pages)operated a high recovery Zero Discharge Desalination (ZDD) pilot system in the Desal Prize competition. ZDD has been evaluated at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF), as well as in Texas, California and Colorado. ZDD has shown the potential for 95-98% recovery for desalination of brackish groundwater rich in calcium and sulfate.
The renewable energy system included photovoltaic panels, inverters, batteries for load stabilization, andassociated electrical panels. Brackish groundwater (from BGNDRF Well #3) was fed to the two-stage nanofiltration system (NF). This produced drinking water to meet WHO drinking water guidelines and the irrigation water quality requirements set forth in the Desal Prize competition rules. The NF had two types of membranes installed and minimal pre-treatment needs:
- Dow NF90 membranes, which have high salt rejection and lower feed pressure requirements (as compared to reverse osmosis (RO) membranes).
- Dow NF270 membranes, which allowed most of the silica to pass through to the permeate. This lower silica concentration in the NF concentrate reduced the required
dosage of antiscalant and eliminated the need for a chemically-intensive pre-treatment step.
The NF concentrate was fed to an electrodialysis metathesis system (EDM) where 60-65% of the ions were removed. The treated stream from the EDM, called diluate, was fed back to the NF for additional water recovery. The only chemical feed for the EDM was salt (NaCl). Cations in the NF concentrate combine with the chloride from NaCl to form a highly soluble chloride mixture in a highly concentrated waste stream called Mixed Cl. Anions in the NF concentrate will combine with Na from the NaCl to form highly soluble sodium salts in a highly concentrated waste stream called Mixed Na. These waste streams can be combined to produce a solid waste stream that is non-hazardous and a liquid stream. This solid will contain mostly calcium and magnesium salts and can be used to improve irrigation water quality by improving the sodium absorption ratio (SAR). Lower SAR values will improve irrigation water infiltration into the soil, improve crop yields.
Pilot Testing and Desalination Education in Honduras
CIDS used funding from its Desal Prize award and a grant from the US Agency for International Development to test Zero Discharge Desalination with salt recovery in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. UTEP partnered with the Universidad Politécnica de Ingeniería (UPi) to demonstrate ZDD in Honduras. The project’s primary goal was to demonstrate ZDD, powered by renewable energy, and able to produce water that is suitable for human consumption and crop irrigation. A suitable concentrate management strategy, with possible salt recovery, was also investigated. Finally, education opportunities for UPi students and Honduran farmers, and discussions with the country’s government officials were key to expanding the knowledge of desalination in Honduras.
The Tegucigalpa, Honduras, pilot test was at a well called “Los Almendros.” The well was installed in the 1980s and had been used intermittently (with blending) in the past, but has been unused for a while due to its brackish salinity. The well was chosen for piloting because the water was well-suited for ZDD, as it is most efficient at desalinating brackish water with high concentrations of multivalent ions such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfate. The ZDD system used in the Desal Prize was simplified and the design improved to achieve a 33% reduction in overall energy consumption by correctly-sizing pumps and also switching several AC electrical loads to DC (which eliminates energy losses from conversion). The brackish water quality, combined with the USAID irrigation water quality requirements, were challenging. Pilot testing confirmed that the ZDD system performs better with acid addition in the feed (to lower the pH and mitigate carbonate precipitation) and possibly an RO concentrate bleed (to mitigate silica precipitation). The highest recovery possible without acid addition is expected to be 85-90%, but with acid addition, the expected recovery is 95-97%.
Three training sessions were held at UPi’s campus. The first was held on July 28, 2016, and included farmers from the region. The second was held on August 8, 2016, and included government officials from SANAA (Servicio Autónomo Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados), DGE (Dirección General de Energia), and DGA (Dirección General del Ambiente). The third was held on August 12, 2016, and included rural water representatives from Asociación Hondureñas de Juntas Administradoras de Sistemas de Agua (AHJASA) and UPi students. The final tour invited various people in the Tegucigalpa region for a tour of the pilot system on September 2, 2016. The tour included representatives from the USAID Honduras Mission, SANAA, Fundación Para el Desarrollo Municipal, Federación Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras, Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería Honduras, Asociación de Municipios de Honduras, Programa de Agua del Banco Mundial, and others.
Point of Use (POU) Water Treatment Systems for Improving Sustainability and Environmental Justice in Colonias of the Paso del Norte Region
P.I: Dr. W. Shane Walker
UTEP and NMSU are collaborating on a $500,000 research project aimed at identifying environmentally and technically feasible water treatment techniques that are economically viable and socially acceptable to residents of colonias. The goals of this proposed research are to: (1) study the feasibility and sustainability of point of use (POU) water treatment technologies as tools to comply with U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulations, and (2) to demonstrate implementation of POU water treatment systems for rapidly mitigating environmental, social, and economic challenges faced by colonias due to unsanitary drinking water and violations of environmental justice.
Nearly two years after embarking on a humanitarian mission to provide access to clean, readily available water in Po Ploom, Haiti, Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., raised a cup of fresh drinking water to toast the community’s residents.
Access to clean water is a constant struggle for the 500 residents of Po Ploom, an isolated community located on a strip of grassland stretching along the eastern border with the Dominican Republic.
Fewer than half of Haitians in rural areas such as Po Ploom have access to clean water and adequate sanitation, putting them at risk for waterborne diseases.
“A Christian organization called the Chadasha Foundation was sending doctors to Po Ploom very often, and they found that most of the illnesses were caused by contaminated water people were drinking,” Santiago explained. “So rather than send doctors, why not send someone to fix the water?”
In 2016, Po Ploom’s clean water problem attracted a private, anonymous donor who reached out to New Vision Baptist Church in Tennessee to find a solution.
As a leader in water treatment technologies research, UTEP offered an answer to their prayers.
UTEP students in the civil engineering senior design course developed a solar-powered water purification system for Po Ploom that would be easy to operate and simple to maintain .
Santiago and a group of volunteers from UTEP, Solar Smart Living and Industrial Water Services (IWS) in El Paso traveled to Haiti in April 2018 to install the system.