Investigation of environmental influences on membrane biofouling in a Southern California desalination pilot plant

Siqian Huang, Nikolay Voutchkov, Sunny C. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


One of the challenges the seawater desalination industry faces today is reverse osmosis (RO) membrane biofouling. Traditional water quality parameters such as SDI and the RO feed water turbidity are inadequate at protecting the membrane from biofouling. This research investigated the environmental and water quality parameters in a Southern California desalination plant in order to develop a set of seawater desalination RO membrane biofouling indicators. Statistical analysis was performed on data collected onsite over two years. The relationships between operation parameters, rain precipitations, TOC, UV254, chlorophyll fluorescence in raw seawater and the performance loss of the RO desalination process are presented. The environmental triggers for accelerated RO membrane biofouling was further investigated by developing membrane fouling simulators at the desalination pilot plant. Biofouling was confirmed by confocal laser scanning microscopy investigation of membrane biofilm and live and dead bacterial cell counts. The results of this study indicated that biofouling was significantly correlated with water quality changes. Thus, chlorophyll fluorescence measurements can be used as a precursor for desalination membrane biofouling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jun 14 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The following groups and individuals are acknowledged for their support and contributions to this project: Daniel Marler and Steve LePage at the Carlsbad Desalination Pilot Plant; Steven Peck at Hydranautics. We thank Leda Katebian for proof reading the manuscript. Financial support for this work was provided by WateReuse Research Foundation award WRF-08-19 .


  • Biofilm
  • Biofouling indicator
  • Chlorophyll
  • RO membrane
  • Seawater desalination
  • Total organic carbon


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigation of environmental influences on membrane biofouling in a Southern California desalination pilot plant'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this