Solar-driven membrane distillation demonstration in Leupp, Arizona

Vishnu Arvind Ravisankar, Robert Seaman, Sera Mirchandani, Robert G Arnold, Wendell P Ela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Navajo Nation is the largest and one of the driest Native American reservations in the US. The population in the Navajo Nation is sporadically distributed over a very large area making it extremely ineffective to connect homes to a centralized water supply system. Owing to this population distribution and the multi decadal drought prevailing in the region, over 40% of the 300,000 people living on Navajo Tribal Lands lack access to running potable water. For many people the only alternative is hauling water from filling stations, resulting in economic hardship and limited supply. A solution to this problem is a de-centralized off-grid water source. The University of Arizona and US Bureau of Reclamation's Solar Membrane Distillation (SMD), stand-alone, pilot desalination system on the Navajo Reservation will provide an off-grid source of potable water; the pilot will serve as a proximal water source, ease the financial hardships caused by the drought, and provide a model for low-cost water treatment systems in arid tribal lands. Bench-scale experiments and an earlier field prototype plant showed viable operation of a solar heated, membrane distillation (MD) system, but further optimization is required. The objectives of the Navajo pilot study are to i) demonstrate integration of solar collectors and membrane distillation, ii) optimize operational parameters, iii) demonstrate and monitor technology performance during extended duration operation, and iv) facilitate independent system operation by the Navajo Water Resources Department, including hand-over of a comprehensive operations manual for implementation of subsequent SMD systems. The Navajo SMD system is designed as a perennial installation that includes remote communication of research data and full automation for remote, unmanned operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-83
Number of pages5
JournalReviews on Environmental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2016


  • Desalination
  • Navajo Nation
  • Solar Membrane Distillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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