Water harvesting from municipal wastewater via osmotic gradient: An evaluation of process performance

Rodrigo Valladares Linares, Zhenyu Li*, Muhannad Abu-Ghdaib, Chun Hai Wei, Gary L. Amy, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


Forward osmosis (FO) presents a unique opportunity for integrated wastewater treatment and seawater desalination. This study assesses the efficiency of a submerged FO system to reduce the volume of wastewater that needs to be treated while recovering high quality water that can be further treated for sustainable fresh water production. A semi-batch operation was employed with two membrane orientations in terms of active and support layers. A change of membrane orientation could improve the flux and slightly reduce the salt leakage from the draw solution to the feed solution. The formation of fouling on the membrane resulted in a decrease of the initial flux and average flux with both membrane orientations. The fouling layer on the membrane surface was determined to be caused by biopolymer-like substances. Osmotic backwash removed almost all organic foulants from the membrane surface, but did not improve the flux. There was a moderate to high retention of nutrients (N and P), varying from 56% to 99%, and almost a complete retention for trace metals regardless of membrane orientation. However the membrane showed a limited ability to retain low molecular weight acids and low molecular weight neutral compounds. This study identified a possible role of the FO process to integrate wastewater treatment and seawater desalination for a sustainable solution of the water-energy nexus for coastal cities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-56
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Desalination
  • Forward osmosis
  • Membrane fouling
  • Osmotic backwash
  • Water reclamation


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