Subsurface intakes for seawater reverse osmosis facilities: Capacity limitation, water quality improvement, and economics

Thomas M. Missimer, NorEddine Ghaffour, Abdullah Dehwah, Rinaldi Rachman, Robert G. Maliva,, Gary L. Amy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The use of subsurface intake systems for seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants significantly improves raw water quality, reduces chemical usage and environmental impacts, decreases the carbon footprint, and reduces cost of treated water to consumers. These intakes include wells (vertical, angle, and radial type) and galleries, which can be located either on the beach or in the seabed. Subsurface intakes act both as intakes and as part of the pretreatment system by providing filtration and active biological treatment of the raw seawater. Recent investigations of the improvement in water quality made by subsurface intakes show lowering of the silt density index by 75 to 90%, removal of nearly all algae, removal of over 90% of bacteria, reduction in the concentrations of TOC and DOC, and virtual elimination of biopolymers and polysaccharides that cause organic biofouling of membranes. Economic analyses show that overall SWRO operating costs can be reduced by 5 to 30% by using subsurface intake systems. Although capital costs can be slightly to significantly higher compared to open-ocean intake system costs, a preliminary life-cycle cost analysis shows significant cost saving over operating periods of 10 to 30. years. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-51
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Research funding for this paper was provided by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and the Water Desalination and Reuse Center. Many of the text figures were drafted by Gina Lipor.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Mechanical Engineering


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