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Fall 2012 |

Inaugur al Issue!


UPCOMING FROM THE DIRECTOR EVENTS 3rd Annual Center Industry Affiliates Program (CIAP) Meeting November 27-28, 2012

Delegates from the Center’s 13 industry partners will meet with WDRC faculty and staff at the University to share research and industry updates.

2nd Annual CIAP Meeting

Saudi Water and Power Forum December 2-4, 2012 SWPF is the premier power and water meeting in the Kingdom. The event will take place at the Hilton Jeddah. The WDRC is sponsoring a pre-forum session on December 2 at the Hilton, called “Moving Wastewater Reuse Forward in Saudi Arabia” to start a dialogue on strategy for increasing the intensity and diversity of wastewater reuse in the KSA. Many distinguished speakers will participate, and delegates from the SWPF will tour KAUST and the WDRC. For more details, visit: WDRC News | Fall 2012

All of us at the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC) are excited about welcoming you to examine this inaugural issue of the WDRC Newsletter. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) opened its doors in July 2009, with the WDRC as one of nine founding research centers. Now, as the WDRC begins its fourth year of existence, we want to share with you some of our progress to-date, and we will use future issues to keep you updated. From our charter, the mission of the WDRC is to contribute research and development toward the integrated and sustainable exploitation of impaired-quality water sources (seawater, brackish water, wastewater (effluent), and urban Prof. Gary Amy runoff) with a minimization of energy use, chemical use, waste residuals, environmental impact, and carbon footprint. Our strategic research agenda is primarily applied and goal-oriented, with bold ambitions to develop low-energy desalination technologies and safe wastewater reuse technologies within a three to five year time horizon. From its inception, the WDRC has grown in numbers to over 100 people; faculty, research staff, graduate students, and administrative staff; and we now believe that we have the critical mass to have a significant impact on water desalination and wastewater reuse practice/future trends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the GCC/MENA region, and globally. The WDRC just completed a successful mid-cycle (external) review. Our research lab with $10M of state-ofthe-art analytical and testing equipment is being expanded from 1,000 to 2,000 m2, with a 260 m2 pilot-testing (test bed) facility soon to be constructed. We have developed a collaboration network of 15 global, regional, and national industrial partners, as part of our mandate to perform industriallydriven research. We have signed several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with in-Kingdom as well as external institutes in Singapore, Korea, and the Netherlands. We have successfully nurtured academic/institutional partnerships in the KSA, North America, Europe, East Asia, and Australia. In developing our global network, our philosophy is to collaborate not compete. I invite you to visit our website for more details, and we all look forward to encountering you at various professional/organizational venues throughout the world. (Special thanks to Ms. Gina Lipor and Dr. Shahnawaz Sinha for developing the newsletter design and assembling its content). —Gary Amy, Director, WDRC


NEW FACULTY Q&A Dr. Peiying Hong joined the WDRC as an Assistant Professor this August, after completing her PhD at the National University of Singapore in 2009. Before joining KAUST, she received her postdoctoral training at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign.

Q: Why did you choose to join the WDRC? A: When I had the opportunity to visit the WDRC last year, I was impressed by the


dynamism of the team. Through my interactions with faculty members, I learned that the WDRC is leading various researches in water and wastewater-related areas that are particularly relevant in solving water treatment and provision issues. Needless to say, the state-of-the-art facilities that are available at KAUST also attracted me. After my visit, I realized that there is a lot that can be done and will be done if I were to join the WDRC.

Q: Tell us about your previous research and what you will do at KAUST. A: My PhD research is on the development of a molecular method that works based on single nucleotide primer extension.

The method enables the quantification of microbial targets, and I applied the method to monitor for fecal contamination events in the water bodies. For my postdoctoral training, I looked for possible contamination of air, soil, and water ecosystems that are in close proximities to concentrated livestock production farms in Midwest USA. Specifically, I utilized molecular approaches to detect the extent of perturbation in the indigenous microbial community, and to quantify for the abundance of different classes of tetracycline resistance genes and mobile genetic elements. I also isolated antibiotic resistant soil isolates to determine their minimum inhibitory concentrations towards antibiotics, and to examine their phenotypic traits for biofilm formation. I am also interested in understanding the anaerobic microbial consortium present in feces and in guts of humans and animals. As such, I was involved in numerous related side projects during my PhD and postdoctoral training. At KAUST, a project that looks into fecal contamination in the coastal waters and in the beach sediments will be initiated. Fecal coliforms and enterococci will be isolated and examined for virulence-associated traits. I am also collaborating with Prof. Helen Nguyen, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois, to understand the inactivation kinetics of microbial indicators. I also hope to look at the microbial community in water and wastewater treatment facilities. Specifically, I hope to understand the removal efficiency of specific bacterial populations and pathogens at different stages of the treatment facilities. Issues related to microbial regrowth of pathogens and specific bacterial populations in the potable and reclaimed water distribution systems will also be explored. I have an upcoming collaboration with Prof. Gary Amy to look at the microbial community in anaerobic membrane bioreactor systems (AnMBR). This project is in collaboration with Prof. Jeremy Guest and Prof. Wen-Tso Liu from University of Illinois. We hope to demonstrate the feasibility of utilizing AnMBR in municipal wastewater treatment, and to provide a better understanding of the biofouling events in anaerobic membrane bioreactor systems. I am also interested in looking at the efficacy of AnMBR to remove pathogens and antibiotic resistant genes.

Q: What are your short- and long-term visions and goals at KAUST? A: My immediate goal is to get my lab up and running soon, to assemble the right group of people, to train and motivate

my students and postdocs to perform up to expectations, and to establish a network and collaborations that would create synergism. My short-term goal is translate these right formulations (i.e., a well-equipped functional lab, skilled personnel, synergistic collaboration, and meaningful research hypothesis and topics) to beneficial research insights. My long-term goal is to establish a niche in applied environmental microbiology that is of relevance to water reuse and public health.

Q: What courses are you teaching this semester? A: I will be teaching a new introductory level course called “Introduction

to Public Health Microbiology.� It will introduce concepts related to the presence of biotic contaminants (e.g., fecal coliforms, pathogens, antibiotic resistant genes) in the water, air, and soil environment. Concepts related to regulations and monitoring approaches will also be discussed. An advanced level course related to the same area will be offered in the near future too. WDRC News | Fall 2012


The WDRC also welcomes Prof. Matthew McCabe as associate professor this semester. Next time he will be featured in the Q&A. 2



Center Industry Affiliate Partners


The WDRC has grown from 30 people to over 100 people since its inauguration just two years ago. The faculty, research scientists, postdocs, and students that make up the team are conducting close to 60 ongoing research projects, with at least 15 upcoming. The Center’s team is very diverse, representing 40 countries and all inhabitable continents. The WDRC engages with 13 partner companies, representing various industries all with an interest in water — may it be potable water, groundwater, or impaired water such as seawater, brackish water, wastewater, or urban runoff.

Ongoing and Upcoming Research Projects


Research Scientists

106 People in the WDRC

10 Faculty

40 Nationalities Represented

29 18

22 Postdocs

PhD Students

MS Students



Dr. Hans Vrouwenvelder won the prestigious Waternet Watercyclus Innovation Award at the annual Vakantiecurus of Delft University on January 14, 2011, just before joining the WDRC as Visiting Assistant Professor. Prof. Vrouwenvelder received the prize for his thesis on “Biofouling of Spiral Wound Membrane Systems,” which was judged the best water thesis of Delft University in 20092010. Dr. Suzana Nunes, Principal Research Scientist at the Applied Membranes and Porous Materials Center of KAUST, joined the WDRC as an associate professor in February 2011. Prof. Amy said then that “Dr. Nunes joining will greatly expand our capabilities in making tailored membranes for a range of water applications.” Dr. Sabine Lattemann, Visiting Senior Research Scientist, is the main author of a chapter in the Advances in Water Desalination book series to be published in November 2012. Her contribution, “Environmental and Performance Aspects of Pretreatment and Desalination Technologies,” discusses the need for resourcesaving and low-impact ‘green’ desalination technologies, aiming at identifying the best available techniques to prevent and reduce waste production and minimize the overall environmental impacts. Continued on p. 5

WDRC News | Fall 2012

On July 1, 2012, in Singapore, the Public Utility Board (PUB), Singapore’s national water agency, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the WDRC for a joint research collaboration on clean, green, and sustainable desalination and water reuse technologies. Prof. Gary Amy (right) and PUB’s CTO, Mr. Harry Seah, signed the MoU. 3


MD research group

In a time when the world’s demand for clean water cannot be met by the available conventional energy, the technology that uses renewable energy for water desalination will save the world from unavoidable crisis. Membrane Distillation (MD) is one of those technologies that emerged as an attractive alternative desalination process. This technology holds the potential of being a cost effective separation process that can utilize low-grade waste heat or alternative energy sources such as solar and geothermal energy.

Although MD research has been under development for several decades, it is still considered a novel desalination technology, which also has a great potential for other applications, and no commercial plant utilizes MD process yet. The few pilot-testing plants developed by different users, manufacturers, and researchers showed great promise and proved that MD has many advantages over the most prevalent water treatment processes, such as being almost independent of feed water salinity while producing water with very high quality. The WDRC’s MD group was established in 2010 by Professor and Center Director Gary Amy and Dr. Noreddine Ghaffour, with the participation of Ahmed Al Saadi, a Saudi PhD student, as well as Dr. Lijo Francis, a postdoctoral fellow from NUS, Singapore. Strong internal collaboration was initiated with Prof. Suzana Nunes’ group, including Dr. Husnul Maab, a postdoctoral fellow in her group, for synthesizing new polymers and making new membranes suitable for each specific MD application, as well as with Prof. Kim Choon Ng’s group, Drs. Youngdeuk Kim, and Kyaw Thu, for hybridization of MD with other processes and modeling work. The MD research activities took an international dimension after starting an external collaboration earlier this year with Profs. Stephen Gray and Jun-De Li from Victoria University, Australia, to develop mathematical modeling and simulation work. MD is a thermally-driven process where vapor is transported through the micropores (range 0.1 – 0.6 µm) of a hydrophobic membrane. The liquid feed, which is always in contact with the membrane, is maintained at a higher temperature than the permeate side to create the partial vapor pressure difference that drives the vapor across the membrane. The capillary forces of the membrane prevent the liquid water from entering the membrane pores unless static pressure exceeds the liquid entry pressure (LEP) of the membrane. Even though the main focus of the research team is developing this technology for sea water desalination application, several other potential applications where MD can play a significant role will also be investigated. The MD group research activities started by identifying some of the challenges that face MD technology to move towards industrialization and set their plan to work around these hurdles. These include: • Synthesizing novel materials and developing efficient membranes • Designing proper modules/spacers • Process optimization and water vapor flux stability • Investigating pore wetting phenomenon, temperature polarization and heat loss by conduction • Pretreatment requirement for MD • Defining the uncertain energy consumption and process economics Membranes fabricated at KAUST • Scaling-up the process • Potential hybridization The research team established their research by designing and fabricating an in-house fully automated lab scale setup that would allow testing different MD configurations, mainly Direct Contact Membrane Distillation (DCMD) and Air Gap Membrane Distillation (AGMD), with both flat sheet and hollow fiber modules. WDRC News | Fall 2012




Since the Center’s inauguration, several researchers have been recognized.

Some of the WDRC’s many distinguished visitors that have come since the inauguration are featured here, many of which have spoken in the seminar series.

Noura Shehab, a PhD candidate in the WDRC, co-advised by Prof. Gary Amy and Prof. Pascal Saikaly, won First Runner Up for Siemens Student Award 2011 in Doha, Qatar as well as first place in the “Help to Avoid Desertification” contest in July 2012, sponsored by Bayer MaterialScience.

Prof. Bruce Logan, Pennsylvania State University, “Microbial Desalination Cells (MDCs): An Evolution of Microbial Fuel Cells Applied to Water Desalination,” February 28, 2011

Winning second place in the Bayer contest was a team directed by Prof. Amy, made up of of engineering specialists Rodrigo Valladares Linares and Muhannad Abu-Ghdaib, and postdocs Zhen-Yu Li and Chun-Hai Wei. Craig Werner, a PhD candidate supervised by Prof. Amy, won the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge in October 2011. Laure Dramas, a PhD Student sponsored by Prof. Jean-Philippe Croue, was recognized at the 2012 AMTA Conference for the Student Best Paper Award. Min Yoon, who is supervised by Prof. Amy, won the 2011 SABIC PostDoctoral Fellowship.

Prof. Anthony Fane, director of the Singapore Membrane Technology Center at Nanyang Technological University, “Membrane Research at the Singapore Membrane Technology Center,” December 3, 2011 Prof. Charles Werth, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Development of Sustainable Catalytic Processes for Removing Oxyanions from Drinking Water,” January 16, 2012 Prof. Urs Van Guntan, Swiss Federal Institute (EAWAG), “Oxidation Processes for Enhanced Wastewater Treatment,” February 11, 2012 Prof. Shane Snyder, University of Arizona, “Water Reuse in the Arid Southwest USA,” March 12, 2012 Prof. Neal Chung, National University of Singapore (NUS), “New Advances in Forward Osmosis (FO) and Membrane Distillation (MD) Membranes for Water Purification,” March 24, 2012 Dr. Samer Adham, Managing Director of the ConocoPhillips’ Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC), “Feasibility and Application of Membrane Distillation,” April 14, 2012 Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, April 21, 2012 H.E. Minister Ali Ibrahim Al Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, April 24, 2012 Prof. Pierre Aimar, University of Toulouse (France), “Energetics of Reverse Osmosis for Desalination,” April 30, 2012

FACULTY UPDATE | Continued from p. 3 Dr. Jorg Drewes, Visiting Professor who served as an Associate Director, reduced his appointment from 100% to 20% and returned to the Colorado School of Mines to undertake his earlier position as a professor and to serve as a research director for the Engineering Research Council, a multi-million dollar project, “Reinventing America’s Urban Water Infrastructure,” whose goal is to change the way in which urban water is managed, with the vision of a safe, sustainable urban water infrastructure, enabled by technological advances in a natural and engineered system. Dr. Peng Wang, Assistant Professor, published a paper in Nature Publishing Group Asia Materials in February 2012 on a newly developed functionalized material. This material has relevance to many of our KICP and CIAP partners as a regenerable material that can reverse its oil attraction or repulsion behavior on demand. Very recently, Prof. Wang successfully combined the reversible wettability with multifunctionalized nanoparticles to manipulate small volume of liquid droplets, which led to a publication in Advanced Materials with an impact factor of 14. Dr. Thomas Missimer, who joined the WDRC in February 2011 as a Visiting Professor with more than 37 years of experience in hydrogeology, published a book entitled Arid Lands Water Evaluation and Management in June 2012. The book presents a comprehensive description of the hydrogeology and hydrologic processes at work in the arid lands and describes the techniques that can be used in assessing and managing water resources of those areas. WDRC News | Fall 2012


WDRC FROM INAUGURATION TO NOW Industry collaborators, academics, and government leaders attended the inauguration in support of its capabilities in research and its potential in addressing water related issues in the KSA and the world.

October 16, 2010: Inauguration

The first annual Center Industry Affiliate Program (CIAP) and Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings were held together at KAUST on December 4 and 5, 2010. The meetings were attended by 20 delegates representing the 10 CIAP members at that time, 5 SAP members, and Center faculty and research staff.

December 2010: 1st Annual SAP & CIAP In March 2011, Aramco joined the WDRC as a CIAP member. Their joining the WDRC was very significant, due to their impact on the Kingdom and KAUST. In May 2011, the WDRC took a bold initiative in creating the WDRC’s Thermal Group to address some of the recent advances and challenges in thermal desalination. A two-day workshop was held that included Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), ACWA Power, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), and Shuaibah Water and Electricity Company (SWEC) to discuss various topics including membrane distillation, seawater cooling towers, solar-powered adsorption desalination, and thermal desalination. ACWA Power / Miahona joined the WDRC as a CIAP member on May 24, 2011. Prof. Walid Abdurrahman, chairman of Miahona (left), visited the WDRC and signed the agreement with Prof. Amy.

May 2011: ACWA Power / Miahona Ceremony

The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) joined as a CIAP member on September 26, 2011. SWCC governor, Mr. Fehied Al Shareef (left), signed the MoU with Dr. Mohamed Samaha, Senior September 26, 2011: SWCC Signing Ceremony VP for Economic and Technology Development at the University. WDRC News | Fall 2012


In October 2011, the WDRC worked with the KAUST Industry Collaboration Program in releasing the Annual Strategic Study Report, prepared by CH2MHill, entitled “Promoting Wastewater Reclamation & Reuse in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Technology Trends, Innovation Needs, and Business Opportunities.” Many WDRC faculty members actively took part in reviewing and preparing this strategic report. Industry, academics, and distinguished speakers participated in this full-day workshop at KAUST.

The 2nd annual Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting took place in Frankfurt, Germany on October 1 and 2, 2011. The SAP is a critical component of the WDRC, directing the strategic research agenda through annual workshops. Besides discussing the ongoing and new research topics, the SAP also critiques the center’s research and knowledge transfer and October 2011: 2nd Annual SAP Meeting aligns the center with its strategic agenda and goals. The 2nd annual CIAP meeting was held at KAUST on December 10 and 11, 2011. The meeting was much larger than the 1st annual meeting, with the addition of three members in the previous year. More than 40 people attended and participated in this two day meeting, including CIAP delegates and center faculty and research staff.

December 2011: 2nd Annual CIAP Meeting A delegation of around 30 people visited the University on December 3, 2011 from the Saudi Water and Power Forum (SWPF) in Jeddah. Dr. Samaha, the senior VP of Economic & Technology Development, welcomed the delegates, and Professor Gary Amy provided an overview of the WDRC. A tour was arranged that included the WDRC lab, the Solar Adsorption Desalination facility, CORE Labs, Museum of Science and Technology in Islam, and New Energy Oasis (NEO). December 3, 2011: SWPF Delegation In February 2012, a large Korean delegation serving academics, research institutes and industries in Korea visited the WDRC for collaborative research and future engagements. The WDRC organized a twoday workshop event to welcome the Korean delegates and to discuss research and collaborations efforts.

February 2012: Red Tide Workshop WDRC News | Fall 2012

The Center organized a two-day expert workshop in Muscat, Oman in collaboration with the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) and the National Centre for Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA). The aim of this workshop was to define multiclient research initiatives to mitigate the impact of red tides and harmful algal blooms on seawater desalination plants.


The Center completed the initial half of its five year cycle in March 2012. The mid-cycle review is a comprehensive assessment and documentation, prepared to capture the Center’s achievement and to establish its critical mass and productivity in order to provide a projection for the remainder of the five-year cycle for stakeholders. The WDRC organized a workshop in Muscat, Oman in April 2012 on “Moving Water Reuse Forward in the GCC Region” with Malcolm Pirnie-Arcadis, one of the Center’s industrial partners. Attendees from throughout the wastewater sector from the GCC region participated the workshop.

April 2012: Water Reuse Workshop

The European Membrane School is an annual event, held for the first time in the Kingdom at KAUST. European and local experts on membrane technology presented lectures to European, regional, April 2012: EMS Middle East School and KAUST graduate students from April 29 to May 2, 2012. In May 2012, international and national researchers along with industry leaders participated to discuss the best practices of seawater intake and discharge related issues and challenges. The workshop was organized by the National Centre for Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA), the Singapore Membrane Technology Center (SMTC), and the WDRC. A large Toyobo delegation, including the company’s President, Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto, visited KAUST and the WDRC for the Toyobo-WDRC MoU signing ceremony on May 23, 2012.


The Center hosts several visitors throughout each semester for the Environmental Science and Engineering / WDRC Seminar Series. The following visitors will present in the Fall 2012 series. October 1, 2012: Prof. Hans-Curt Flemming, University of Duisberg (Germany), “Biofouling: Unexpected, Underestimated, Undertreated” October 6, 2012: Dr. Robert Maliva, Schlumberger, “Opportunities for Groundwater Aquifer Recharge and Recovery (ARR) in Arid-Lands Regions” October 13, 2012: Prof. Mamadou Diallo, California Institute of Technology (USA), “Next Generation of Advanced Polymeric Materials and Systems for Sustainable Water Purification” October 15, 2012: Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Ibrahim, Governor, Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), “Desalination in the KSA: Current Practice and Future Trends” October 20, 2012: Prof. Bruce Logan, Pennsylvania State University (USA), “Microbial Electrochemical Technologies Meet Salinity Gradient Energy” November 12, 2012: Prof. Joan Rose, Michigan State University (USA), “Drinking Water Safety in the 21st Century” November 17, 2012: Prof. Jeremy Guest, University of Illinois (USA), “Sustainable Design Concepts Based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)” December 1, 2012: Prof. Chris Buckley, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (South Africa), “Anaerobic Membrane Processes” WDRC News | Fall 2012




m3/capita/year of renewable resources

The KSA is within a water scarce region of the world, the Middle East and North Africa, where 5% of the world’s population lives, but less than 1% of the world’s renewable water resources exists. This 1% is depleting fast with rapid population growth, as evidenced by the number of cubic meters per capita per year in the Kingdom nearing 200. A number less than 1000 designates a water scarce region. “A Water Sector Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf,” World Bank Report, 2005



m3/year of water

This is the amount of water that was used in Saudi Arabia in 2010. 80% of this water comes from non-renewable sources, 6% from desalination, and the remaining 14% from renewable resources. About 85% of it is used in agriculture, causing rapid depletion at an alarming rate. “Water Sector of Saudi Arabia,” Dr. Mohammed Al Saud, December 2010



m3/year wastewater lost

About 51% of wastewater in the KSA does not make it to its wastewater treatment plant. Of the wastewater that does make it, 16% is not treated, thus a large portion of wastewater (about 77%) is not used.



“Water Sector of Saudi Arabia,” Dr. Mohammed Al Saud, December 2010

m3/day of desalinated water

The Kingdom has about 30 desalination plants, producing about 24 million cubic meters of desalinated water every day or about 1 billion cubic meters every year, representing 50% of the world’s desalination capacity, through its 3,600 km (2,000 miles) of pipeline, supplying water to more than 50 cities and distribution centers throughout the country.


“Saudi Arabia Urged to End Water Subsidies,” Emirates 24/7, Nadim Kawach, October 9, 2010

proportion of desalinated water produced by non-renewable resources

About 90% of desalinated water in the Kingdom is produced using non-renewable resources, such as oil or natural gas. Currently, the KSA is using 1.5 million barrels of oil each day in making desalinated water.

solar energy

The KSA receives some of the most intense sunlight in the world, which is about 105 trillion kWh/day of renewable energy, roughly the equivalent to 10 billion barrels of crude oil energy. Geothermal, wind, wave action, and other renewable resources could be explored, and are available to the Kingdom.



metric tons of Carbon as greenhouse gas

The amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the Kingdom ranks the country as the 14th nation based on 2008 fossil-fuel CO2 emission. To put this number into perspective, one metric ton of CO2 is produced to meet the average monthly energy demand of one typical American household.

WDRC News | Fall 2012


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