Use of low-enthalpy and waste geothermal energy sources to solve arsenic problems in freshwater production in selected regions of Latin America using a process membrane distillation – Research into model solutions

Barbara Tomaszewska, Jochen Bundschuh, Leszek Pająk, Marta Dendys, Valeria Delgado Quezada, Michał Bodzek, Maria Aurora Armienta, Mauricio Ormachea Muñoz, Aleksandra Kasztelewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

The challenge for many communities in Latin America is to find adequate solutions which are feasible given the local economic and technical conditions and which enable them to source water with arsenic concentrations below the WHO guideline value for drinking water (<10 μg/L) of arsenic (As) pollution, suitable for human consumption and the irrigation of crops. Three regions where geothermal fields are present were selected for study out of the several hundred locations in Latin America where the water environment is contaminated with As and where there is a critical water shortage problem. These are Cerro Prieto in Mexico, Momotombo in Nicaragua and Lake Poopó in Bolivia. The paper presents the results of research on the use of low-enthalpy geothermal energy sources and waste heat from geothermal power plants in membrane distillation (MD) processes, which is the only heat-powered membrane technology, in order to obtain potable water and/or water for crop irrigation. It was concluded that MD could be considered as a solution for obtaining water of good quality with a high retention of toxic solutes such as As as well as other different species found in groundwater. In addition, it is not only geothermal energy, but also the geothermal water itself that can be considered as a source of freshwater produced through the MD process, a process which is most suitable to be used in areas where cheap sources of heat are available.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136853
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume714
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The paper was prepared under the UNESCO Chair on Groundwater Arsenic within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and AGH - UST statutory research grant.

Funding Information:
The paper was prepared under the UNESCO Chair on Groundwater Arsenic within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and AGH-UST statutory research grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Arsenic
  • Fresh water
  • Geothermal heat
  • Latin America
  • Membrane distillation

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