Membranes for Wastewater

Membranes are the coming technology in wastewater. The information below was taken from an article in the PR Newswire, entitled “Global Market for Membrane Wastewater Treatment.” The article expands on the concept of membrane technology in wastewater and explains where and how this technology is expanding due to the increase in reuse of wastewater effluent. For the full article, visit

Wastewater is an environmental hazard and a potentially recoverable resource. Generated from a wide array of processes and activities, wastewater may contain hazardous toxins, heavy metals, oils and greases, nutrients, bacteriological components, viruses, pharmaceuticals and an array of other pollutants. If released into natural or managed waters, these pollutants can contribute substantially to downstream water-quality impairments, impacting both human health and ecosystems. Fortunately, a wide array of wastewater treatment technologies is available, including physical, chemical and biological treatments, screening and membrane filtration. These technologies, which remove, destroy or transform pollutants into less harmful by-products, are varied and highly specific, based on wastewater characteristics, volume, needed process flow rates and the ultimate disposal or reuse selected for the treated wastewater.

Membrane wastewater treatment technologies were introduced in the laboratory in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1990s, membrane cleaning (rather than simple replacement) was incorporated into product design, allowing use for the treatment of drinking water and production of recycled wastewater. Today, membrane wastewater treatment technologies are advancing rapidly, spurred along by a series of incremental technological advances, are smaller, cheaper and more efficient and are being deployed for a widening suite of wastewater applications. As a result, U.S. and global markets for membrane wastewater treatment technologies are blossoming from their once limited niches and into mainstay applications for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment.

Membrane wastewater treatment technologies that are currently available can be broken down into four categories: low-pressure membranes including (1) microfiltration membrane systems, which include membrane bioreactor (MBR), physical microfiltration and prefiltration applications; (2) ultrafiltration membrane systems, which utilize a smaller pore size than microfiltration, capable of removing bacteria and viruses; and high-pressure membranes including (3) nanofiltration, which is also capable of removing most chemical pollutants and multivalent ions, and (4) reverse osmosis, which can also remove monovalent ions (salts). Applications for membrane wastewater treatment technologies include treatment of both industrial and municipal wastewater, in support of discharge to natural waters or other disposal; prefiltration, especially where low-pressure membranes are applied in sequence with high-pressure membranes; reclamation for recycled water including municipal, agricultural and industrial reuse; and emerging applications including potable water supply enhancement.

Persistent and ongoing membrane cost reductions over the last two decades, combined with updated technologies that are cutting operating and maintenance costs, are driving strong demand for membrane wastewater treatment technologies. Public sector demand and regulatory statutes are also driving more widespread implementation of wastewater recycling, to which membrane technologies are well-suited. Membrane technologies also provide effective treatment in a fraction of the area required for conventional treatment. In developed nations, membrane wastewater treatment technologies are being selected because they provide high-quality, consistent treatment to meet increasingly stringent discharge requirements and ever-lowering pollutant detection limits. Installation of membrane wastewater treatment technologies is driven by increased wastewater concerns associated with ongoing industrialization and an increasing reliance on high-quality discharge suitable for beneficial reuse.

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