American Society of Civil Engineers

Decentralized Membrane Filtration System for Sustainable and Safe Drinking Water Supply in Low-Income Countries: Baseline Study

by Haiou Huang, (corresponding author), (Assistant Scientist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe St., E6632, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail:, Joseph G. Jacangelo, (Adjunct Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21205; and Director of Research, MWH, 40814 Stoneburner Mill Lane, Lovettsville, VA 20180-2245.), and Kellogg J. Schwab, (Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe St., E6620, Baltimore, MD 21205.)

Journal of Environmental Engineering, Vol. 137, No. 11, November 2011, pp. 981-989, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Decentralized membrane filtration systems (DMFS) have the potential to supply safe drinking water in low-income countries (LICs) where centralized municipal water treatment is practically infeasible. This study aimed at applying an integrated bench-scale and field-testing approach to assess the sustainability of a DMFS in producing safe drinking water in LICs. The state-of-the-art DMFS employed in this study was capable of removing bacteria, surrogate parasites, and viruses at log reductions above 7, 5, and 4, respectively, from evaluated waters (n=4). The technological sustainability of the DMFS was primarily affected by membrane fouling, and a linear correlation was found between the reversible/irreversible fouling rates of a miniature bench-scale system and those of the full-size DMFS caused by representative types of source waters. The total and irreversible fouling rates of the full-size DMFS were approximately 50% of those of the miniature system, regardless of the properties of the source waters. Similar quantitative relationships may be established between the fouling rates of the bench-scale system and those of other full-size DMFS. Overall, easy and cost-effective fouling control is warranted for sustainable application of DMFS in LICs, and bench-scale membrane testing serves as a potential screening tool for this purpose.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Drinking water
Developing countries
Sustainable development
Water quality

Author Keywords:
Decentralized membrane filtration system
Safe drinking water
Low-income countries
Membrane fouling
Water quality