Redox condition of saline groundwater from coastal aquifers influences reverse osmosis desalination process

Shaked Stein, Orit Sivan, Yoseph Yechieli, Roni Kasher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Reverse osmosis (RO) seawater desalination is a widely applied technological process to supply potable water worldwide. Recently, saline groundwater (SGW) pumped from beach wells in coastal aquifers that penetrate beneath the freshwater-seawater interface is considered as a better alternative water source to RO seawater desalination as it is naturally filtered within the sediments which reduces membrane fouling and pre-treatment costs. The SGW of many coastal aquifers is anoxic – and thus, in a low redox stage – has elevated concentrations of dissolved manganese, iron and sulfides. We studied the influence of the SGW redox stage and chemistry on the performance - permeate flux and fouling properties - of RO desalination process. SGWs from three different coastal aquifers were sampled and characterized chemically, and RO desalination experiments were performed under inert and oxidized conditions. Our results show that all three aquifers have anoxic saline groundwater and two of them have intensive anaerobic oxidation of organic matter. Two aquifers were found to be in the denitrification stage or slightly lower and the third one in the sulfate reduction stage. Our results indicate that the natural redox stage of SGWs from coastal aquifers affects the performance of RO desalination. All SGW types showed better RO performance over seawater desalination. Furthermore, air oxidation of the SGW was accompanied with pH elevation, which increased the membrane fouling. Hence, keeping the feed water unexposed to atmospheric conditions for maintaining the natural reducing stage of the SGW is crucial for low fouling potential. The observed benefits of using naturally reduced SGW in RO desalination have significant implications for reduction in overall process costs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116508
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Coastal aquifers
  • Redox
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Saline groundwater
  • Seawater desalination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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