Subsurface intake systems: Green choice for improving feed water quality at SWRO desalination plants, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Abdullah Dehwah, Thomas M. Missimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


An investigation of three seawater reverse osmosis facilities located along the shoreline of the Red Sea of Saudi Arabia that use well intake systems showed that the pumping-induced flow of raw seawater through a coastal aquifer significantly improves feed water quality. A comparison between the surface seawater and the discharge from the wells shows that turbidity, algae, bacteria, total organic carbon, most fractions of natural organic matter (NOM), and particulate and colloidal transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) have significant reductions in concentration. Nearly all of the algae, up to 99% of the bacteria, between 84 and 100% of the biopolymer fraction of NOM, and a high percentage of the TEP were removed during transport. The data suggest that the flowpath length and hydraulic retention time in the aquifer play the most important roles in removal of the organic matter. Since the collective concentrations of bacteria, biopolymers, and TEP in the intake seawater play important roles in the biofouling of SWRO membranes, the observed reductions suggest that the desalination facilities that use well intakes systems will have a potentially lower fouling rate compared to open-ocean intake systems. Furthermore, well intake system intakes also reduce the need for chemical usage during complex pretreatment systems required for operation of SWRO facilities using open-ocean intakes and reduce environmental impacts.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-224
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Oct 25 2015

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Funding for this research was provided by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. The authors thank the Water Desalination and Reuse Center for the use of analytical equipment. The authors thank Samir Al-Mashharawi, Khaled Bin Bandar, Nizar Jaber, Noor Zaouri and Sheng Li for field and lab support, the SAWACO company team, and Eng. Nizar Kammourie, Eng. Najm El-jafery, Eng.Firas Yaish, Eng. Safwan AL Issa, Mr. Jilly Edisan, Mr. Ronald Llamera, and Mr. Nestro Genterola for access to the facilities and on-site support.


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