National Alliance for Water Innovation receives 5-year, $100M Energy-Water Desalination Hub grant


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The National Alliance for Water Innovation, or NAWI, received a five-year, $100 million Energy-Water Desalination Hub grant by the U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, for research and action concerning water security issues in the United States, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, announced Monday. 

NAWI is a research alliance between multiple university partners, laboratories and industry partners across the nation, with headquarters at Berkeley Lab. The Hub’s goal is to focus on research and development for energy-efficient and cost-competitive desalination technologies and to develop treatments for nontraditional water sources, according to the announcement.  

“(The grant is the) largest federal investment in water research since the Kennedy administration,” said Peter Fiske, researcher and director of the Water-Energy Resilience Institute. “(It) gives us an ability to rethink how water needs to be delivered in the 21st century.”

According to the announcement, the alliance was formed just two years ago to support the DOE’s goal of establishing the desalination hub. Meagan Mauter, director of the Water and Energy Efficiency for the Environment Lab, said the researchers’ main goal is to secure a circular water economy within the next 10 years, which would allow for localized water reuse. 

NAWI researchers also hope to develop technologies that would enable 90 percent of nontraditional water sources — including seawater, brackish water and produced waters — to be cost-competitive with existing water sources within the next 10 years, according to the announcement.

According to Mauter, the Hub gives NAWI the opportunity to conduct comprehensive research using high-grade technology available exclusively to the government. She said she believes the Hub will allow academic researchers to work across sectors. The intersection of the academic, scientific and industrial communities is integral to the Hub’s five-year plan, which includes creating a national road map for addressing future water insecurities. 

“This Hub will and could be the catalyst … for a lot of groundbreaking work,” said Jeffery Preece, program manager at Electric Power Research Institute. He added that the work will give researchers the opportunity to find “the scientific breakthroughs needed for the next 30 years.” 

The grant will allow scientists to further research some of the most pressing issues concerning water security — namely, how to change polluted water into a reusable resource. According to Fiske, the research could be helpful in projects such as the preservation of the agricultural water supply in the Central Valley. 

Fiske said the grant is a down payment for the U.S. government’s concern about sustainable water sources. He added that moving forward, the Hub will look to find new industry sponsors from companies and organizations that want to secure sustainable water. 

“The DOE is making several investments,” Mauter said. “(The Hub is an) opportunity to make really substantive gains in seeding the early research to the sustainable water economy.” 

Contact Sebastian Cahill and Emily Hom at [email protected].