Jan 24, 2014

Desalination Plant Relieves Drought-Stricken Marshall Islands

RO desalination systems provide sustainable water production for residents in remote regions

Spectra Watermakers Desalination RO Drought Marshall Islands

On Utrik, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands, the region's first permanent solar- and wind-powered water desalination plant is staving off the effects of a yearlong region-wide drought.

In May 2010, Tom Vance of Moana Marine LLC installed two Spectra LB-1800 reverse osmosis (RO) desalination systems, which convert seawater into 3,600 gal per day of clean, fresh, U.S. EPA-approved drinking water. Without the water from the desalination systems, life would be impossible for Utrik's 485 residents.

A typical desalination plant of this size would be powered by a diesel generator, but outer island fuel prices have averaged $8 to $10 per gallon, meaning a diesel-fueled system would cost $30,000 to $75,000. The fuel expense for Spectra units is zero, and the installation has paid for itself in fuel savings alone.

Local technicians, trained by Vance, maintain the installation.

Fuel prices are now soaring to $15 per gallon, and the supply is unreliable. The only way to assure consistent, affordable water on this remote island is with alternative energy and RO desalination. Spectra uses proprietary energy recovery pumps, making its systems energy efficient and good for solar- and wind-powered installations.

With more drought and water crises predicted for the area, Utrik remains a model for drought preparedness and safe, sustainable water production in the Pacific Island region.