Economics and Energy Consumption of Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis Desalination: Innovations and Impacts of Feedwater Quality

Jeffrey L. Pearson, Peter R. Michael, NorEddine Ghaffour, Thomas M. Missimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Brackish water desalination, using the reverse osmosis (BWRO) process, has become common in global regions, where vast reserves of brackish groundwater are found (e.g., the United States, North Africa). A literature survey and detailed analyses of several BWRO facilities in Florida have revealed some interesting and valuable information on the costs and energy use. Depending on the capacity, water quality, and additional scope items, the capital cost (CAPEX) ranges from USD 500 to USD 2947/m3 of the capacity (USD 690–USD 4067/m3 corrected for inflation to 2020). The highest number was associated with the City of Cape Coral North Plant, Florida, which had an expanded project scope. The general range of the operating cost (OPEX) is USD 0.39 to USD 0.66/m3 (cannot be corrected for inflation), for a range of capacities from 10,000 to 70,000 m3/d. The feed-water quality, in the range of 2000 to 6000 mg/L of the total dissolved solids, does not significantly impact the OPEX. There is a significant scaling trend, with OPEX cost reducing as plant capacity increases, but there is considerable scatter based on the pre- and post-treatment complexity. Many BWRO facilities operate with long-term increases in the salinity of the feedwater (groundwater), caused by pumping-induced vertical and horizontal migration of the higher salinity water. Any cost and energy increase that is caused by the higher feed water salinity, can be significantly mitigated by using energy recovery, which is not commonly used in BWRO operations. OPEX in BWRO systems is likely to remain relatively constant, based on the limitation on the plant capacity, caused by the brackish water availability at a given site. Seawater reverse osmosis facilities, with a very large capacity, have a lower OPEX compared to the upper range of BWRO, because of capacity scaling, special electrical energy deals, and process design certainty.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 12 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-09-20
Acknowledgements: The cost of this research was funded by the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering, Emergent Technologies Institute, Florida Gulf Coast University, and the Water Desalination and Reuse Center, Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division, King Abdullah
University of Science and Technology. The authors thank the City of Cape Coral for providing cost data on their BWRO plants.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Economics and Energy Consumption of Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis Desalination: Innovations and Impacts of Feedwater Quality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this