Fertiliser drawn forward osmosis desalination: The concept, performance and limitations for fertigation

Sherub Phuntsho, Ho Kyong Shon, Seungkwan Hong, Sangyoup Lee, Saravanamuthu Vigneswaran, Jaya Kandasamy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)


With the world's population growing rapidly, pressure is increasing on the limited fresh water resources. Membrane technology could play a vital role in solving the water scarcity issues through alternative sources such as saline water sources and wastewater reclamation. The current generation of membrane technologies, particularly reverse osmosis (RO), has significantly improved in performance. However, RO desalination is still energy intensive and any effort to improve energy efficiency increases total cost of the product water. Since energy, environment and climate change issues are all inter-related, desalination for large-scale irrigation requires new novel technologies that address the energy issues. Forward osmosis (FO) is an emerging membrane technology. However, FO desalination for potable water is still a challenge because, recovery and regeneration of draw solutes require additional processes and energy. This article focuses on the application of FO desalination for non-potable irrigation where maximum water is required. In this concept of fertiliser drawn FO (FDFO) desalination, fertilisers are used as draw solutions (DS). The diluted draw solution after desalination can be directly applied for fertigation without the need for recovery and regeneration of DS. FDFO desalination can make irrigation water available at comparatively lower energy than the current desalination technologies. As a low energy technology, FDFO can be easily powered by renewable energy sources and therefore suitable for inland and remote applications. This article outlines the concept of FDFO desalination and critically evaluates the scope and limitations of this technology for fertigation, including suggestions on options to overcome some of these limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-168
Number of pages22
JournalReviews in Environmental Science and Biotechnology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jun


  • Desalination
  • Fertigation
  • Fertiliser draw solution
  • Forward osmosis (FO)
  • Irrigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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