Natasha Wright on Solar-Powered Desalination in India

Photo credit: MIT

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Natasha Wright is a researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Global Engineering and Research Lab. In 2015, her team — a collaborative effort between MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems —won first place in the Desal Prize competition, an initiative of the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development which is funded by USAID alongside Sweden (through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the South African Department of Science and Technology. In this interview with Global Waters Radio, Wright shares insights about her team’s prize-winning electrodiaylsis reversal (EDR) technology, which uses solar power to produce desalinated water for small-scale farmers and communities disconnected from irrigation and water-supply networks.

"With EDR," she says, "you can achieve a recovery ratio of over 90 percent — that means if I put one gallon of water in, less than 10 percent of that gallon is wasted. This is much less waste than the small-scale systems that are currently installed in India. The existing systems use a technology called reverse osmosis, and in the way that they are currently applied, they waste closer to 50 to 70 percent of input water."

Wright shares lessons learned from the team’s first EDR field trial, held in India earlier this year, and explains to Global Waters Radio why the technology’s relatively low energy requirements — roughly 50 percent less than reverse osmosis — could make EDR an appealing fit for water-scarce off-grid communities in sun-rich areas of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

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Global Waters Radio was a podcast series produced by the Water Team at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2016 - 2020. The series offered listeners insights from USAID officials, development partners, thought leaders and experts from across the water sector as they discussed USAID water programming and cutting-edge research from around the world.

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Natasha Wright
Russell Sticklor
9 minutes 38 seconds
Population Focus
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