Mitigation of saltwater intrusion by 'integrated fresh-keeper' wells combined with high recovery reverse osmosis

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Jan 1:574:796-805. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.156. Epub 2016 Oct 14.


Most countermeasures to mitigate saltwater intrusion in coastal, karstic or fractured aquifers are hindered by anisotropy, high transmissivities and complex dynamics. A coupled strategy is introduced here as a localized remedy to protect shallow freshwater reserves while utilizing the deeper intercepted brackish water. It is a double sourcing application where fresh-keeper wells are installed at the bottom of a deepened borehole of selected salinized wells, and then supported by high recovery RO desalination. The RO design has <1kWh/m3 energy consumption, and up to 96% recovery in addition to low scaling propensity without use of any anti-scalant. A feasibility study is presented as an example for a salinizing, brackish well (TDS ~1600mg/L) in the Damour coastal aquifer in Lebanon. The concept is expected to produce ca. 1000m3/d of freshwater from this well by pumping 250m3/d of fresh groundwater from the top well screen and 800m3/d of brackish groundwater (to be later desalinized) from the fresh-keeper well screen below. Cost analysis shows that the capital cost could be returned back in 1 to 4years depending on the choice of produced water (bottled or tap) and available market. As an alternative, water from the RO plant could be blended with lower quality water, for instance untreated brackish groundwater (if unpolluted), to supply 3 more volumes for domestic use. The usage of brackish groundwater from integrated fresh-keeper wells thus serves 3 purposes: production of high quality drinking water, financial gain and mitigation of water stress by overpumping.

Keywords: Groundwater deterioration; High recovery RO; Lebanon; Non-conventional water resources; Urban water system.