4
Implementation

The Roadmap notes that it is a “living document,” that will continue to evolve and improve with time. The Roadmap’s focus is to present “broad research areas that are representative of the types of scientific and technical advances that will be necessary for desalination and water purification technologies to find wide acceptance” (USBR and SNL, 2003). Section 5.0 of the Roadmap, entitled “Next Steps,” positions the Roadmap at the upper end of a continuum of parallel activities to build additional water supplies through desalination and membrane-based water purification (Figure 4-1). While the Roadmap recognizes the broader steps necessary for wider application of desalination, including characterizing the resources, addressing regulatory issues, improving global collaboration, and addressing issues of commercialization and facility siting, the Roadmap does not provide an implementation strategy for its own research agenda.

IMPLEMENTATION STEPS

Much remains to be done to build on the efforts to date and turn these preliminary research ideas into a program for strategic research investments in the area of desalination technologies. In order to achieve the objectives of the Roadmap, the program will need adequate funding for research, involvement of talented scientific researchers worldwide, strategic awarding of research funding, and effective communication of the research findings to the desalination community. These necessary implementation steps and the roles of various agencies in these steps are described below.

Funding Implementation of the Roadmap

As noted in Chapter 1, past federal investments (pre-1982) in desalination research were substantial and resulted in large improvements in efficiency and the development of reverse osmosis technology. Current funding levels within the federal government for non-military application of desalination, however, are insufficient, if one key objective of the Roadmap is to fund research efforts that would trigger a step change in performance and cost reduction for desalination technologies. Research investments in desalination by the private sector, supplemented by modest current federal support, gradually continue to



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Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap 4 Implementation The Roadmap notes that it is a “living document,” that will continue to evolve and improve with time. The Roadmap’s focus is to present “broad research areas that are representative of the types of scientific and technical advances that will be necessary for desalination and water purification technologies to find wide acceptance” (USBR and SNL, 2003). Section 5.0 of the Roadmap, entitled “Next Steps,” positions the Roadmap at the upper end of a continuum of parallel activities to build additional water supplies through desalination and membrane-based water purification (Figure 4-1). While the Roadmap recognizes the broader steps necessary for wider application of desalination, including characterizing the resources, addressing regulatory issues, improving global collaboration, and addressing issues of commercialization and facility siting, the Roadmap does not provide an implementation strategy for its own research agenda. IMPLEMENTATION STEPS Much remains to be done to build on the efforts to date and turn these preliminary research ideas into a program for strategic research investments in the area of desalination technologies. In order to achieve the objectives of the Roadmap, the program will need adequate funding for research, involvement of talented scientific researchers worldwide, strategic awarding of research funding, and effective communication of the research findings to the desalination community. These necessary implementation steps and the roles of various agencies in these steps are described below. Funding Implementation of the Roadmap As noted in Chapter 1, past federal investments (pre-1982) in desalination research were substantial and resulted in large improvements in efficiency and the development of reverse osmosis technology. Current funding levels within the federal government for non-military application of desalination, however, are insufficient, if one key objective of the Roadmap is to fund research efforts that would trigger a step change in performance and cost reduction for desalination technologies. Research investments in desalination by the private sector, supplemented by modest current federal support, gradually continue to

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Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap FIGURE 4-1 The steps identified in the Roadmap to advance the wider use of desalination. SOURCE: USBR and SNL, 2003. improve the efficiency of desalination technologies and reduce overall costs; however, in order to achieve the far-reaching objectives presented in the Roadmap, adequate funding must be applied and distributed. Advancements in critical areas without strong commercial interests, such as concentrate disposal, will likely depend upon public financing. This committee was not tasked to determine how much additional funding would be needed to significantly reduce the costs of desalination, and the Roadmap also did not address this issue. More thorough analysis is needed to estimate the research funding needed, beyond current industry investments in research and development, to place the nation in a likely position to reach the long-term objectives set forth in the Roadmap. As currently structured, the Roadmap does not contain sufficient justification for the research areas identified, and it contains no prioritization of the research presented. As noted in Chapter 2, a subsequent strategic desalination research agenda should be developed, which is founded upon a baseline assessment of the state of today’s desalination technologies and identifies research areas most likely to reach the Roadmap’s specific critical objectives (perhaps expanding on the ideas presented in Chapter 3). An analysis to provide estimated cost ranges—irrespective of funding source—to achieve each objective should be a natural outgrowth of the development of a strategic desalination research agenda. This analysis should include an assessment of current research activities in desalination, and it should also provide guidance on opportunities for shared funding responsibilities between federal agencies, research foundations or institutions, and the public sector, since cost-sharing can be an effective means to leverage limited research dollars. The Bureau of Reclamation, based on its long history of research funding in this area, should work collaboratively with desalination experts from these different sectors and industry (perhaps including key participants from the Roadmapping Team) to develop this subsequent research agenda and conduct the research cost analysis.

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Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap Step changes in technology are difficult to predict—let alone implement—and will require substantial investments in areas of great promise but sizeable uncertainty. Because this funding must be applied wisely, a strategic investment approach is needed that selects research topics and projects based on their potential for improving current technologies or developing revolutionary new technologies. A decision will need to be made on whether the Roadmap research agenda can include feasibility studies and pilot and demonstration plants or whether it should be used mainly to support research. Broad Request for Proposals Based on available funding, the opportunity to announce requests for proposals exists for federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Reclamation or the National Science Foundation, or other research institutions that explicitly target one or more Roadmap objectives. The principal funding agency should announce a request for proposals as widely as possible to scientists and engineers in municipal and federal government, academia and private industry. These requests for proposals could also be disseminated in a central website on desalination research, described below. At present, the desalination community is relatively small, but collectively there is a great deal of expertise across the world. International desalination experts and others from related areas of research should be encouraged and given the opportunity to offer innovative research ideas that have the potential to significantly advance the field. Thus, the request for proposals should extend to federal agencies, national laboratories, other research institutions, utilities, and the private sector. Since innovation cannot be pre-assigned, there should also be room for unsolicited proposals. Selection To achieve the objectives of the Roadmap, proposals should be selected through a rigorous independent peer review process (NRC, 2002b) irrespective of the agency issuing the request for proposals. A rotating panel of independent reviewers should be appointed based on their relevant expertise in the focal areas of the Roadmap and in the basic science of desalination. The process should allow for the consideration and review of unsolicited proposals, as long as their research goals meet the objectives of the Roadmap. Proposal funding should be based on the quality of the proposed work, the potential contribution toward meeting the Roadmap’s critical objectives, prior evidence of successful research, and the potential for effective publication or dissemination of the research findings. The status of each request for proposal process could be monitored through the proposed website suggested below. Communicating the Activities and Results of Research and Development Scientific and technical breakthroughs and improvements will need to be transferred effectively to the desalination industry before they can be broadly adopted. The Bureau of Reclamation should encourage and lead the publication and communication of

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Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap research activities and results, through various media. The following components should be considered: A central website on the activities and progress of the Roadmap could enhance coordination and collaboration while disseminating both research opportunities and research findings to the broader desalination community. This website could also provide a means to communicate with the general public and help interested parties understand what level of advancement exists for a particular desalination technology. Examples of information that should be incorporated into the website include: Requests for proposals issued, Proposals received, Descriptions of projects awarded, Interim and final project reports, Resulting publications, Synthesized information on resulting advances in the technology, Progress reports on the Roadmap, including what progress has been achieved in meeting the performance targets, Periodic updates to the desalination technology strategic research agenda at specific intervals (e.g., every five years), and Recent data on water demands and supply around the nation, and details on the role of desalination to meet water demands. Based on its long history in desalination research, the Bureau of Reclamation should help coordinate this website (perhaps with assistance from other research institutions). Effective research communication requires clear dissemination of the research results to both the scientific community and those practitioners who will ultimately utilize the findings. Scientific communication includes publication in peer-reviewed journals, books, and presentations at scientific meetings. Clear communication of the scalability of research findings is important because this can facilitate rapid adoption of technological improvements at the appropriate step in their development (e.g., those that are scalable to full production). The Bureau of Reclamation should consider holding periodic meetings among Roadmap-funded researchers to enhance cross-fertilization of knowledge and improve communication. Public Perception. Without public acceptance, there will be no mandate to fund research in the areas identified. Therefore, it is important to inform the general public about the benefits, affordability, and environmental considerations of desalination. Desalination’s place in the supply of water for drinking, industrial, and agricultural use should be demonstrated. Steps should be taken to provide this information to both the general public and policy makers through various media.

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Review of the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Conclusion: Current funding levels within the federal government for non-military application of desalination are insufficient to fund research efforts that would trigger a step change in performance and cost reduction for desalination technologies. Recommendation: In order to achieve the far-reaching objectives presented in the Roadmap, adequate research funding should be applied and distributed. Conclusion: The Roadmap does not provide an implementation strategy, and much remains to be done to turn these preliminary research ideas into a program for strategic research investments in the area of desalination technologies. Recommendations: The Bureau of Reclamation should work collaboratively with desalination experts from different sectors to develop a strategic research agenda and to estimate the resources needed to place the nation in a likely position to reach the long-term objectives set forth in the Roadmap. Requests for proposals should be announced as widely as possible to scientists and engineers in government, academia, and private industry, and unsolicited proposals should also be considered in areas of innovative technologies. Proposals should be selected through a rigorous independent peer review process, utilizing a rotating panel of independent expert reviewers. The Bureau of Reclamation should encourage and lead the publication and communication of research activities and results through various media, including a central website on the activities and progress of the Roadmap. The general public should be informed about the benefits, affordability, and environmental considerations of desalination.