A new cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly method of desalination for irrigation has been developed by a team at the UTS Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater.

Traditional methods of desalination rely on large-scale heating and evaporation processes or high pressure water pumps that force water through filtering systems.

Dr Hokyong Shon and his colleagues at UTS have designed an alternative process that they call Fertiliser Drawn Forward Osmosis. The researchers believe that their system could use up to 80% less energy than traditional methods.

In the new system, chemicals withdraw salt from saline water via osmosis by employing soluble fertiliser on the opposite side of a membrane filter. The converted water is directed straight into an irrigation system. Fertiliser serves as both a process material and part of the end product, maximising resources and eliminating waste.

A pilot installation of the system is currently being used at a Newcastle coal mining site to desalinate saline ground water.