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Desalting Water: Addressing Water Scarcity with Electrodialysis

Water is an essential resource for sustaining life, but as global population and water demands continue to rise, the scarcity of freshwater has become an increasingly pressing issue.

In this article, we will explore the concept of desalting water, its various techniques, the pros and cons associated with it, its applications, technological advancements, and the future of desalination.

We will also focus on electrodialysis and how this technology is becoming more and more popular all around the world.

Water Desalination by Electrodialysis Article Banner
Water Desalination by Electrodialysis



Desalination, also known as desalting, refers to the process of removing salt and other impurities from seawater, brackish water, or other sources, making it suitable for consumption or various industrial uses.

The importance of desalting water cannot be overstated, especially in regions facing water scarcity due to factors such as population growth, climate change, and limited freshwater resources.

Several techniques are employed to desalt water, each with its unique principles and advantages.

The most widely used methods include reverse osmosis, multi-stage flash distillation, electrodialysis, vacuum distillation, and forward osmosis. These techniques employ different mechanisms to separate salt from water, ensuring the production of clean and freshwater.

The production of potable water from brackish water sources is presently the largest single application of electrodialysis. In brackish water desalination electrodialysis is competing directly with reverse osmosis. However, in a certain range of feed water salt composition electrodialysis has an economic advantage over other desalination processes.

Electrodialysis is mainly used in small to medium size plants with capacities of less than a few 100m3 d−1 to more than 20,000m3 d−1 with a brackish water salinity of 1000 to 5000 mg L−1 total dissolved solids.

Reverse osmosis is considered to have an economic advantage for the desalination of water with total dissolved salts in excess of 10,000 mg L−1.

Electrodialysis Equipment for Brackish Water Desalination In A Factory
Electrodialysis Equipment for Brackish Water Desalination
More information about this electrodialysis equipment can be found on our website.

Next to brackish water desalination, the industrial process water demineralization and waste water treatment are the most important applications of electrodialysis.

Industrial water processing includes demineralization of boiler feed water and desalination of contaminated industrial water for reuse.

Because of a substantial increase in fresh water costs and problems related to the discharge of certain industrial waste waters which often contain high salt concentrations or toxic water constituents waste water recycling can result in substantial cost savings.

A typical application of industrial water reuse is the recycling of cooling tower blow-down water.

Electrodialysis is particularly suited for this purpose since high recovery rates up to 95% and high brine concentrations can be achieved, which results in savings of feed water costs and in a reduction of waste water discharge.

Furthermore, ion-exchange membranes can be operated at temperatures up to 50 °C which is in the range of most cooling systems. Very often toxic or valuable components such as heavy metal ions can be removed to avoid pollution of the environment and save disposal costs by recycling valuable materials.

A large number of interesting applications for electrodialysis are in the galvanic industry and in metal surface treatment processes.

A typical example is the recovery and concentration of nickel from the still rinse water and the recovery of acids such as HCl, HNO3, HF, etc. from spent pickling solutions. There are many more interesting applications of electrodialysis in waste water treatment.

Most of these applications require only relatively small electrodialysis units, such as our Electrodialysis Test equipment.

Electrodialysis has also found several applications in the food industry and in biotechnology. Some of these applications can be considered as state-of-the-art processes such as the deionization of whey.

Click on the following link for other applications of electrodialysis.

The advantages of electrodialysis compared to reverse osmosis are: high water recovery rates, long useful life of membranes, operation at elevated temperatures up to 50 °C, and less membrane fouling or scaling due to process reversal.

The disadvantage of electrodialysis compared to reverse osmosis is that neutral toxic components such as viruses or bacteria are not removed from a feed stream. In spite of the fact that electrodialysis reversal is significantly less sensitive to membrane fouling than reverse osmosis some pre-treatment of the feed water is required. Especially, the iron and manganese ion concentrations must be kept below 0.3 and 0.05 mgL−1.

Desalination by electrodialysis offers numerous benefits in addressing water scarcity. By desalting water, communities can diversify their water sources, reducing their reliance on limited freshwater reserves.

Desalinated water also provides a solution for areas with limited access to clean drinking water, ensuring a reliable and safe supply. Electrodialysis desalination helps in the sustainable management of water resources, promoting environmental conservation and reducing water-related conflicts.

While desalination holds great potential, there are certain drawbacks that need to be considered. The process requires significant energy inputs, making it an energy-intensive endeavour.

The environmental impact is another concern, as the brine discharge from desalination plants can harm marine ecosystems. Electrodialysis can be used for the treatment of RO reject from desalination plants, also known as brines.

Cost considerations also play a role, as desalinated water tends to be more expensive compared to traditional freshwater sources. Additionally, the disposal of concentrated brine, a by-product of desalination, poses a challenge in terms of proper management and potential environmental consequences.

Desalinated water has a wide range of applications that contribute to the sustainability and development of communities.

In municipal settings, it can serve as a reliable source of drinking water, particularly in coastal regions where freshwater supplies are limited. Desalinated water is also used for agricultural purposes, enabling irrigation in arid or drought-prone areas, thereby supporting crop growth and food production.

Industries benefit from desalination by utilizing it in various processes, such as manufacturing, power generation, and cooling systems. Additionally, desalinated water plays a crucial role in emergency situations, providing immediate relief during natural disasters or when existing water infrastructure is compromised.

The field of desalination continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements that enhance efficiency, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.

Membrane innovations, particularly in electrodialysis, have improved the desalination process by enhancing water recovery rates and reducing energy requirements.

Furthermore, hybrid desalination systems, combining multiple techniques, are being explored to optimize performance and overcome limitations.

As the demand for freshwater continues to grow, the future of desalination looks promising. Ongoing research and development aim to make desalination more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective.

Advancements in brine management, such as electrodialysis and the extraction of valuable minerals from brine or its safe disposal, will contribute to minimizing the environmental impact.

Moreover, improvements in energy recovery and storage technologies will reduce the energy requirements of desalination plants. Continued investment in research and innovation, along with collaboration between academia, industry, and governments, will pave the way for advancements in desalination technology and its widespread adoption.

Desalting water offers a viable solution to address water scarcity and meet the growing demand for freshwater, especially by employing electrodialysis.

By using various desalination techniques, communities can diversify their water sources, reduce their dependence on limited freshwater reserves, and ensure a reliable supply of clean drinking water.

While desalination does pose challenges in terms of energy requirements, environmental impact, and cost considerations, ongoing technological advancements and research efforts aim to overcome these limitations.

It is crucial to continue exploring desalination solutions, promoting sustainability, efficiency, and innovation, to secure a water-secure future for generations to come.

For more information about DESALT EDR treatment systems with electrodialysis technology, kindly get in touch with our team by clicking the button below:


Reverse osmosis uses a semi-permeable membrane to separate salt and impurities from water under pressure, producing freshwater.

Electrodialysis consumes less energy compared to reverse osmosis, making it more energy-efficient.

Electrodialysis can effectively remove salts and charged species, but it may not remove all organic and non-charged impurities.

Yes, electrodialysis can be scaled down for small-scale applications, providing a sustainable water treatment solution.

The lifespan of electrodialysis membranes varies depending on the operating conditions and maintenance practices. Generally, they can last five years with proper care.

While the initial investment for electrodialysis systems may be higher, the long-term operational savings and efficiency make it a cost-effective desalination option.

Environmental concerns include the discharge of concentrated brine, energy consumption, and potential impacts on marine ecosystems.

Yes, desalinated water undergoes rigorous treatment processes, ensuring it meets strict quality standards for safe consumption.

The cost of desalination varies depending on factors such as the chosen technique, plant size, energy prices, and infrastructure requirements.


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