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New desalination research project commences

Mar 9, 2017
Author: Goyder Institute


The Goyder Institute for Water Research is pleased to announce the commencement of a new project:

Assessment of Small Scale Desalination by Capacitance Deionization for Treatment of NAP Waters

Project leader: Prof John Van Leeuwen

Lead research institution: UniSA

The Assessment of Small Scale Desalination by Capacitance Deionization for Treatment of NAP Waters project will assess and determine technical options and economic viability of capacitive de-ionisation (CDI) technology for the desalination of primary water sources in the Northern Adelaide Plains, including marginal-salinity groundwater and Bolivar DAFF recycled water, for use in horticultural production.

The project was approved to commence in early January. The University of SA researchers are currently progressing:

1) the establishment of the trial of their of their own CDI unit at the Bolivar DAFF treatment plant;

2) confirmation of a suitable host field site for a horticultural irrigation trial for the CDI unit; and,

3) procurement of a commercial CDI unit (to be loaned by Idropan Australia) for a parallel trial at Bolivar and the horticultural trial site.


The requirement for water for horticultural irrigation to be of low-salinity limits the application of water resources that are marginally above the required salinity. This applies to marginal salinity groundwater in the Northern Corridor, as well as to the use of reclaimed water from the Bolivar DAFF recycling scheme (which may be up to 1200 mg/L) to some horticultural crops that are particular sensitive.

Project Driver(s)

The availability of new desalination technology that has the benefits of low initial establishment costs and low ongoing energy requirements provides opportunities to unlock the marginal salinity water sources in the NAP/Northern Corridor area for a range of horticultural purposes, if the new technology can be demonstrated to be practical, reliable and cost-effective for small to medium sized horticultural enterprises.

Research Approach

This is intended to be a low-cost project to demonstrate the opportunity to use new desalination technology at the scale of individual irrigated horticulture enterprises to reduce the salinity of marginal-quality irrigation.

The project will select a suitable demonstration site in the Northern Adelaide Plains and establish a small-scale trial of capacitive deionisation desalination technology, with the aim of demonstrating the practicality of such a scheme at the scale of a single enterprise, and the improvements that can be achieved in horticultural product yields or quality. This project will be partly funded by external funding from PIRSA and has a high probability of securing industry co-investment. Desalination technology company Idropan Australia has indicated a willingness to contribute to the project through provision of a CDI desalination unit.

Key Outcomes

The project will demonstrate the practicality of small-scale installations of capacitive deionisation technology for horticultural irrigation applications in the NAP/Northern Corridor area. The intended outcome of this is that a greater proportion of the reclaimed water is taken up for productive use and that groundwater in the areas where it is currently considered marginally too saline for horticultural purposes also becomes a potentially productive water resource.