The Emerging Solution of Membrane Water Treatment
Compiled by Alex Cosper
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Membrane water treatment is a filtering process that removes unwanted chemicals and particles from water. A membrane is a barrier that allows certain substances to pass through a system while blocking others. Water treatment facilities use various types of membranes and processes to clean waste water and to produce drinking water. It is a multi-billion dollar industry with growing interest due to helping keep community water systems safe and clean.

Types of Membranes

reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a process for generating clean drinking water. Through pressurized fluids consisting of dissolved solids, the process removes microscopic particles such as icons or bacteria, as well as large particles from water. Microfiltration and ultrafiltration are processes used to disinfect waste water. Nanofiltration is a newer purification technology that softens particles, making them easier to remove from water. It can also remove coloring agents and other pollutants.


The process of filtering out minerals from salt water is known as desalination, which is becoming popular for lowering the costs of producing drinking water. It does not depend on rainfall or snowfall, making it an ideal solution for drought-stricken areas, such as California and the southwest. This extended drought since 2011 led to water treatment firm IDE Americas constructing a $1 billion seawater desalination plant in San Diego, making it the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere.

Membrane desalination can also be used to improve water quality by removing nitrates, herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals in water that contains high concentrations of magnesium and calcium. These plants, like other membrane treatment facilities, tend to be automated and easy to operate, which is a key to its cost-effectiveness. Desalination technology is promoted by the International Desalination Association (IDA), which focuses on water recycling.

Chemical Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for identifying water contaminants and regulating drinking water in the United States. The categories of regulated chemicals with examples include:

microorganisms (viruses)
disinfectants (chlorine)
disinfection byproducts (bromate, chlorite)
inorganic chemicals (asbestos, copper, cyanide, fluoride, lead)
organic chemicals (acrylamide, glyphosate, styrene, vinyl chloride)
radionuclides (alpha particles, uranium)
Deeper Studies

You can learn more about water membrane solutions by becoming a member of the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA). The organization issues fact sheets that cover a wide range of issues including facility operation economics, industrial applications, water reuse projects, pretreatment processes, disposal techniques and various other water safety concerns.

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