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Desalination: turning salt water into fresh water for the future



Seawater desalination is the process of changing seawater into fresh water. A popular method for producing fresh water from seawater is by using a seawater reverse osmosis machine.

With 2/3 of Indonesia's area being ocean, it makes the process of desalinating sea water into fresh water easier. Machines for converting sea water into fresh water are developing very quickly, not only in urban areas but also in remote villages throughout Indonesia.

The seawater desalination machine removes 99% of the salt content of seawater, resulting in fresh water with a salt content lower than 500 ppm. The prospect of desalination in Indonesia is increasingly needed, as clean water is limited.


What is the Meaning of Desalination?


Desalination is the process of removing salt, minerals and other dissolved solids from salt water, both brackish water and sea water. The area 500 – 1000 meters near the coast usually has brackish water.


Meanwhile, seawater desalination specifically changes seawater into fresh water. In general, there are two methods, namely, hot steam (thermal) and membrane (reverse osmosis). The reverse osmosis method is one of the more popular methods.


Seawater desalination that uses thermal are usually found in power generation systems or in industries that have sufficient energy power. There is almost no use for thermal in medium or small industries.


However, seawater desalination equipment using reverse osmosis can be installed anywhere. Both on islands, beaches and commercial areas, and you can choose the capacity according to your needs.


As more and more people need it, the price of seawater desalination machines is also becoming more competitive.



Advantages of Using Sea Water Desalination / Water Reverse Osmosis (SWRO)


  • Providing drinking water needs (clean & fresh drinking water).

Seawater desalination systems remove dissolved salts and other minerals from seawater and convert it into drinking water providing a solution for areas with limited freshwater resources and a reliable alternative water source in times of severe drought.


  • Providing water for the agricultural industry.

Desalination also produces water that can be used for irrigation, which is great for dry areas or in many areas of the world that experience drought.


  • Safe water quality (not harmful or harmful to any living creature).

The water produced has gone through clinical trials and has been confirmed to be safe for humans, animals and plants, and there is no chemical contamination in the process.


  • Using tried-and-tested technology (the method is proven and effective).

Seawater desalination systems have been used for decades now, and the methods have proven effective in creating new sources of fresh, quality drinking water that are considered safe and reliable. This process has been tried and tested in many industries and applications over the years.


  • Help preserve current freshwater supplies.

Since the supply of fresh water in our planet is limited, we must conserve its resources by using desalination methods to eliminate the water shortage crisis that the world may face.


Why do we need desalination?


Desalination is a relatively expensive way to produce clean water compared to collecting and treating it from freshwater sources (rivers, lakes, springs, groundwater, etc.), which are very abundant in Indonesia. However, the lack of infrastructure to treat water means that many households and even businesses prefer to use groundwater. The increase in population, especially in very dense areas such as Jakarta, also reduces the quality of the groundwater used. In Jakarta, it is estimated that land levels are falling by 10 cm per year, partly due to around 10 million deep wells drawing groundwater around Jakarta.


Another problem is the quality of rivers which are very dependent on clean water supplies. Due to the low quality of river water, the cost of processing raw water into clean water also increases. Added to this is the high cost of piping installation and maintenance for distribution, especially to areas far from water treatment plants.


Geographical factors are one of the problems for water distribution. Some small islands are too far to reach from the mainland by pipes and people are forced to buy water at very high prices. This leads to a reliance on surface water, much of it collected from rain.


Currently, apart from using Waste Water Treatment Plant (Instalasi Pengolahan Air Limbah; IPAL) technology as an effort to create clean water, the desalination process itself is also widely used in factories throughout Indonesia to meet their clean water needs. This process is also used on many islands, although in a smaller capacity. Their use is still limited due to expensive facilities and maintenance, although innovations in membranes and technology have made them cheaper over the years. However, despite all these obstacles, seawater desalination as a source of clean water is important for reducing pressure on surface and groundwater use.



Seawater Desalination in Indonesia


The development of seawater desalination in Indonesia continues to grow every year. This is because many beautiful commercial places do not have access to clean water. So, there is potential to build commercial water treatment, either for industry or as an investment.


The need for desalination in both small and large capacity continues to grow, along with the growth of business around the coast. Another fact is that several investors, both domestic and foreign, have made investments in the form of BOO (Build, Own, Operate) or BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer).


BOO or BOT investment for seawater treatment, sometimes using an additional commercial reverse osmosis step. The goal is to be truly guaranteed to get water with lower TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) quality.


What is the Raw Water Source for Seawater Desalination in Indonesia?


Plans for installing seawater desalination must require a survey of raw water sources. Considering that you will use the system investment for a long period of time, you must choose a fairly good source. One of the factors of a good source is that it is clear and has a lower TDS.


The TDS value of sea water in Indonesia varies greatly, generally ranging between 18,000 – 35,000 ppm. The general international standard is that seawater TDS is 15,000 – 40,000 ppm. However, in Egypt, it is probably the highest in the world, namely around 45,000 ppm.


In 2008, the MAPURNA team measured the Bali Pecatu Graha beach, the TDS of sea water was 18,000 ppm. Meanwhile in 2016, the survey in Ancol had a TDS of 25,000 ppm. TDS values ​​in this range are sufficient for sea water desalination raw water.



Is there a Desalination Plant in Indonesia?


Of course, there are already many desalination plant installations in Indonesia and there will be more. More small and medium capacity may be installed, either through companies, CSR or government assistance.


On this occasion we present several examples of seawater desalination with quite large capacities, namely more than 1000 M³/Day. Below are some of our reference notes regarding RO plants that already exist in Indonesia.


Bali Pecatu Sea Water Desalination Plant - Bali


This seawater desalination plant began procurement in 2008, with a capacity of 2 X 1500 M³/Day. This plant belongs to Bali Pecatu Graha, whose function is to provide fresh water from sea water.


The raw water source for desalination is from beach deep well drilling which is located around 500 – 1000 meters from the plant. The products from this seawater desalination process will later be used for facilities needs at all sites and some municipal needs.


Muara Baru Sea Water Desalination Plant, North Jakarta


The desalination plant in Muara Baru plant has a capacity of 2 X 1500 M³/Day. This plant started carrying out its activities around 2010, using a BOT system. The aim of establishing this plant is to provide a source of clean water for the community, at commercial prices.


Ancol Seawater Desalination Plant, North Jakarta


The seawater desalination system in Ancol, North Jakarta has a capacity of 5000 M³/day. At the time of construction, it might be one of the largest in Indonesia.


The aim of establishing this plant is to provide a source of clean, fresh water for commercial needs in the Ancol area and the community.

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