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Reverse Osmosis Pretreatment

Big Brand Water Filter Cartridges

Reverse Osmosis Pretreatment

The feed water, depending on its source, may contain various concentrations of
suspended solids and dissolved matter. Suspended solids may consist of
inorganic particles, colloids and biological debris such as microorganisms and
algae. Dissolved matter may consists of highly soluble salts, such as chlorides,
and sparingly soluble salts, such as carbonates, sulfates, and silica. During the
RO process, the volume of feed water decreases, and the concentration of
suspended particles and dissolved ions increases. Suspended particles may
settle on the membrane surface, thus blocking feed channels and increasing
friction losses (pressure drop) across the system. Sparingly soluble salts may
precipitate from the concentrate stream, create scale on the membrane surface,
and result in lower water permeability through the RO membranes (flux decline).
This process of formation of a deposited layer on a membrane surface is called
membrane fouling and results in performance decline of the RO system. The
objective of the feed water pretreatment process is to improve the quality of the
feed water to the level which would result in reliable operation of the RO
The quality of the feed water is defined in terms of concentration of suspended
particles and saturation levels of the sparingly soluble salts. The common
indicators of suspended particles used in the RO industry are turbidity and Silt
Density Index (SDI). The maximum limits are: turbidity of 1 NTU and SDI of 4.
Continuous operation of an RO system with feed water which has turbidity or SDI
values near the limits of these values may result in significant membrane fouling.
For long-term, reliable operation of the RO unit, the average values of turbidity
and SDI in the feed water should not exceed 0.5 NTU and 2.5 SDI units,
The indicators of saturation levels of sparingly soluble salts in the concentrate
stream are the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) and the saturation ratios. The
LSI provides an indication of the calcium carbonate saturation. Negative values
of LSI indicate that the water is aggressive and that it will have a tendency to
dissolve calcium carbonate. Positive values of LSI indicate the possibility of
calcium carbonate precipitation. The LSI was originally developed by Langelier
for potable water of a low salinity. For high salinity water encountered in RO applications, the LSI is an approximate indicator only. The saturation ratio is the
ratio of the product of the actual concentration of the ions in the concentrate
stream to the theoretical solubilities of the salts at a given conditions of
temperature and ionic strength. These ratios are applicable mainly to sparingly
soluble sulfates of calcium, barium and strontium. Silica could be also a potential
scale forming constituent. Other potential scale forming salts, such as calcium
fluoride or phosphate which may be present in RO feed, seldom represent a
Depending on the raw water quality, the pretreatment process may consists of all
or some of the following treatment steps:

� Removal of large particles using a coarse strainer.

� Water disinfection with chlorine.

� Clarification with or without flocculation.

� Clarification and hardness reduction using lime treatment.

� Media filtration.

� Reduction of alkalinity by pH adjustment.

� Addition of scale inhibitor.

� Reduction of free chlorine using sodium bisulfite or activated carbon filters.

� Water sterilization using UV radiation.

� Final removal of suspended particles using cartridge filters.

The initial removal of large particles from the feed water is accomplished using
mesh strainers or traveling screens. Mesh strainers are used in well water supply
systems to stop and remove sand particles which may be pumped from the well.
Traveling screens are used mainly for surface water sources, which typically
have large concentrations of biological debris.
It is common practice to disinfect surface feed water in order to control biological
activity. Biological activity in a well water is usually very low, and in majority of
cases, well water does not require chlorination. In some cases, chlorination is
used to oxidize iron and manganese in the well water before filtration. Well water
containing hydrogen sulfide should not be chlorinated or exposed to air. In
presence of an oxidant, the sulfide ion can oxidize to elemental sulfur which
eventually may plug membrane elements.
Settling of surface water in a detention tank results in some reduction of
suspended particles. Addition of flocculants, such as iron or aluminum salts,
results in formation of corresponding hydroxides; these hydroxides neutralize
surface charges of colloidal particles, aggregate, and adsorb to floating particles
before settling at the lower part of the clarifier. To increase the size and strength
of the flock, a long chain organic polymer can be added to the water to bind flock
particles together. Use of lime results in increase of pH, formation of calciumcarbonate and magnesium hydroxide particles. Lime clarification results in
reduction of hardness and alkalinity, and the clarification of treated water.
Well water usually contains low concentrations of suspended particles, due to the
filtration effect of the aquifer. The pretreatment of well water is usually limited to
screening of sand, addition of scale inhibitor to the feed water, and cartridge

Pretreatment system for well water source
Surface water may contain various concentrations of suspended particles, which
are either of inorganic or biological origin. Surface water usually requires
disinfection to control biological activity and removal of suspended particles by
media filtration. The efficiency of filtration process can be increased by adding
filtration aids, such as flocculants and organic polymers. Some surface water
may contain high concentrations of dissolved organics. Those can be removed
by passing feed water through an activated carbon filter. Depending on
composition of the water, acidification and addition scale inhibitor may be
required. The flow diagram of pretreatment system for surface water is shown

pressure pump, serve as the final barrier to water born particles. The nominal
rating commonly used in RO applications is in the range of 5 - 15 microns. Some
systems use cartridges with micron ratings as low as 1 micron. There seems to
be little benefit from lower micron rated filters as such filters require a high
replacement rate with relatively small improvement in the final feed water quality.
Recently, new pretreatment equipment has been introduced to the RO market. It
consists of backwashable capillary microfiltration and ultrafiltration membrane
modules. This new equipment can operate reliably at a very high recovery rates
and low feed pressure. The new capillary systems can provide better feed water
quality than a number of conventional filtration steps operating in series. The cost
of this new equipment is still very high compared to the cost of an RO unit.
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