Desalination of salt water produces fresh water that is suitable for human consumption or irrigation. Along with recycled wastewater, this is one of the few non-rainfall-dependent water sources. Large-scale desalination typically uses large amounts of energy and specialized, expensive infrastructure.
The Japanese Mega-ton project is aiming to develop the world’s first megaton per day desalination (M.m3/day) plant. The idea is to radically reduce the cost and improve the environmental performance of desalination by scaling up. The megaton capacity has a throughput that could serve four million people.
Energy reduction of 20 % is said to be achieved through improvements in the membranes themselves. Further energy reduction can be achieved through system optimization, for example by mixing the seawater with treated effluent, cutting the amount of piping needed, and developing corrosion-resistant piping materials.
The Mega-ton initiative is part of Japan’s government-sponsored FIRST program. This is a funding mechanism set up in 2009 to help support the country’s reputation for world-leading, innovative research and development in the field of science and technology.
The government has provided a $43 million budget for the Mega-ton project, which has a team of 100 staff drawn from Japanese universities and water industry companies. Of the 30 key staff in the project, 17 are from companies, 11 from universities and two from other organizations.
The aim is to export the technology to the Gulf and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions, and lately China, with India expected to go down the desalination route in the long-term.
- The dawn of a new desalination era: Japan plans for a megaton per day,
Water21, June 2012.
International Water Association (IWA)