Household rainwater harvesting system – pilot scale gravity driven membrane-based filtration system

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This paper presents the results of a pilot scale study consisting of pre-treatment with a granular activated carbon (GAC) filter followed by membrane filtration. Detailed characterisation of rainwater tanks has highlighted that turbidity, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and heavy metals, in particular lead, were not compliant with the 2004 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). Further, organic matter present in the water causes membrane fouling and leads to carcinogenic compounds upon chlorination. A GAC filter was used as a first step to remove dissolved organic matter (measured in terms of DOC) in particular and also to reduce the concentration, of turbidity and lead. Membrane filtration can remove any remaining solids reducing the concentrations of turbidity and microorganisms. In this study a pilot scale rainwater treatment system consisting of a gravity fed GAC filter and membrane filter (Ultra Flo) was operated for a period of 120 days. The performance of this system was assessed in terms of membrane flux and improvement in water quality measured against the 2004 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Determination of the flux especially in the later stages of membrane operation was important to be able to size the filters in a manner that meets the expected demand. The treatment system of GAC filter and membrane filter was effective in reducing the turbidity, DOC and heavy metals. The system reduced the turbidity to levels of 0.3–0.4 NTU, below the ADWG limit of 1 NTU. The concentration of DOC was reduced to below the 2004 Australian Drinking Water Guidelines limit of 0.2 mg/L. The concentration of lead was reduced to less than 0.005 mg/L, and below the ADWD limit of 0.01 mg/L. The concentrations of all other heavy metals were well within the ADWG limits. Further, the GAC filter removed a majority of the organic substances from raw rainwater collected from the roof. After the initial flux decline, the stable flux achieved was 0.47 L/m2/h consistently over the final 60 days of the experiment.

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