Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering

Degree Level



Chemical Engineering


Penney, William R


In the United States, one of the major rising issues is water shortage, especially in Western, inland states with arid climates. Not only do deficiencies exist for potable water, but for irrigation and agricultural purposes as well. Currently, the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico has four separate wells that are being used for experimentation. A major concern is that a considerable amount of this water is currently wasted by being sent to evaporation ponds without any sort of treatment for human consumption. The WERC-A-HOLICS have identified two possible methods to alleviate this problem. Electrocoagulation (EC) is a technology useful for the removal of sulfate and other anions from brackish groundwater. The process charges concentrated water through an EC chamber in a serpentine pathway, and uses an applied voltage to flow current through the system. By identifying the ideal combination of current density and residence time, it is possible to achieve approximately 40% sulfate removal by EC alone. In addition to this technology, reverse osmosis (RO) was also considered as a means of water desalination. This is a very attractive option, and has been extensively implemented in other parts of the world, especially Europe and the Middle East. RO is extremely effective in reducing salt concentrations, within EPA limits, suitable for human consumption. The WERC-A-HOLICS performed experiments to determine if EC was a viable means of removing sulfate from brackish water (well 2). On a purely scientific level, EC as pretreatment for RO produced potable water; however, this system is not economical long term on an industrial scale due to its high yearly operating costs. If implemented on a smaller scale or using brackish water feed with a lower sulfate concentration, such as the other three research wells, EC as pretreatment has potential to be economical due to its lower yearly operating and waste disposal costs.