Farmers Could Reuse Saltwater With Reverse Osmosis Technology
Photo: Cypress graveyard due to saltwater intrusion (Paul Goyette on Flickr)
One of the biggest problems with the scarcity of freshwater is the over-pumping of groundwater aquifers (especially for agriculture), leading to intrusion of saline water. But Australian scientists at the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney are now developing another method that could allow farmers with arid and marginal agricultural lands to transform useless, salty groundwater into precious water that could be used to grow crops."We are looking at ways to grow plants on very salty water without damaging soil," said associate professor Greg Leslie of UNSW’s UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology. "We're incorporating a reverse osmosis membrane into a sub-surface drip irrigation system."
By running the irrigation lines with built-in reverse osmosis membranes underground, the proposed irrigation system would use the pressure gradient supplied by the plants’ roots to desalinize the water without the high amount of energy consumption usually associated with desalination.
Says Leslie, "We're going to provide agriculture with a tool to grow crops in drought years when there is limited access to run-off and surface water."
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