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Portable Solar Desal for Remote Communities

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Researchers working at a remote indigenous community in Western Australia have demonstrated that portable, solar-powered desalination can provide water security for a small community.

A team from UTS, Murdoch University and the WA Department of Housing aimed to develop an energy-efficient and chemical-free pre-treatment process that would sustainably deliver water to the drought-prone community of Tjuntjuntjara, 800 km north-east of Kalgoorlie.

Tjuntjuntjara obtains its water supply from an area of internal drainage, known as a donga groundwater catchment, roughly 4 km from the town. Stormwater flows into the donga and percolates down through the strata, forming a thin blackish lens of drinkable water floating atop hypersaline water.

“Their existing water source has a very, very high content of salt – roughly twice the levels of saline as seawater. We also found it to be contaminated with iron and nitrate, exceeding the recommended level for infants and pregnant women,” said Gayathri Naidu, a UTS PhD student working on the project.

“The safe yield of the donga is thought to be about 23 kL/day, but the lens shrinks during periods of drought,” Naidu said. “Who knows what the community would do then? Trucking in water is too difficult because Tjuntjuntjara is too remote. It would take at least 3 days to get there.”

The prototype system...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.