Reverse osmosis usually requires pretreatment to remove contaminants including SS in sizes above 3 to 5p,; removing these contaminants prevents fouling the membrane surfaces. Because many saline waters contain salts such as calcium carbonate in concentrations near saturation, lowering the pH of the water is necessary to prevent scaling. Wastewater treatment facilities usually adjust the pH by adding a mineral acid in the range of 5 to 6.

Wastewater treatment facilities often add biocides, such as chlorine, to prevent microbial growth that could foul membrane surfaces. They also add threshold inhibitors to prevent salt precipitation from fouling membrane surfaces.

After pretreatment, the feed solution is pumped by a high-pressure pump to the reverse osmosis unit at about 500 to 800 psig (see Figure 7.37.13). Wastewater treatment facilities can use a number of individual reverse osmosis modules in series and parallel-flow configurations. The back-pressure valves on each assembly control the pressure within the membrane chamber. The pressure energy from the pressurized reject brine can be recovered in a turbine generator.

Wastewater treatment facilities can recover 60 to 75% of the water as pure effluent from the dilute wastes, leading to a three- to four-fold increase in the solute concentration in waste streams.

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