Combating the Emerging Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms on Desalination Plants: Bloom Detection, Forecasting, and Strategies for Impact Reduction
Marine and fresh waters teem with life, much of it microscopic and most of it harmless; in fact, it is this microscopic life on which all aquatic life ultimately depends for food. Algal blooms occur in natural waters when certain types of microscopic algae grow quickly, often in response to changes in levels of chemicals, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, in the water. The impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs) are widespread. Algal blooms can deplete the oxygen and block the sunlight that other organisms need to live. Some produce toxins that are harmful to the health of the environment, plants, animals, and people. They also disrupt desalination operations by clogging intake filters, fouling surfaces, and compromising membranes. Impacts can be severe, as was seen during a 2008-2009 HAB in the Gulf of Oman that negatively affected multiple desalination plants, including one plant that had to cease operations for 55 days.
To address this challenge, an international research team led by the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) in Oman will use state-of-the-art satellite remote sensing and numerical modeling technology to develop an early warning system that alerts desalination plant operators about the presence and predicted transport pathways of algal blooms. This system will provide operators with a broader view of their environment, allowing them to observe and understand algal blooms that are approaching, leading to more adaptive management and informed decision-making.
Research Results and Progress Reports
During the reporting period, the research team was engaged in the following activities:
Since the project's start in August 2014, the following activities have taken place: