Forward osmosis niches in seawater desalination and wastewater reuse

R. Valladares Linares, Z. Li, S. Sarp, Sz S. Bucs, G. Amy, J. S. Vrouwenvelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

187 Citations (Scopus)


This review focuses on the present status of forward osmosis (FO) niches in two main areas: seawater desalination and wastewater reuse. Specific applications for desalination and impaired-quality water treatment and reuse are described, as well as the benefits, advantages, challenges, costs and knowledge gaps on FO hybrid systems are discussed. FO can play a role as a bridge to integrate upstream and downstream water treatment processes, to reduce the energy consumption of the entire desalination or water recovery and reuse processes, thus achieving a sustainable solution for the water-energy nexus. FO hybrid membrane systems showed to have advantages over traditional membrane process like high pressure reverse osmosis and nanofiltration for desalination and wastewater treatment: (i) chemical storage and feed water systems may be reduced for capital, operational and maintenance cost, (ii) water quality is improved, (iii) reduced process piping costs, (iv) more flexible treatment units, and (v) higher overall sustainability of the desalination and wastewater treatment process. Nevertheless, major challenges make FO systems not yet a commercially viable technology, the most critical being the development of a high flux membrane, capable of maintaining an elevated salt rejection and a reduced internal concentration polarization effect, and the availability of appropriate draw solutions (cost effective and non-toxic), which can be recirculated via an efficient recovery process. This review article highlights the features of hybrid FO systems and specifically provides the state-of-the-art applications in the water industry in a novel classification and based on the latest developments toward scaling up these systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-139
Number of pages18
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes



  • Desalination
  • Draw solution
  • Forward osmosis
  • Pressure retarded osmosis
  • Wastewater recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modelling

Cite this

Valladares Linares, R., Li, Z., Sarp, S., Bucs, S. S., Amy, G., & Vrouwenvelder, J. S. (2014). Forward osmosis niches in seawater desalination and wastewater reuse. Water Research, 66, 122-139.