The Rise of Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment

Engineering & Product Development – The Rise of Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment

Starting in the 1950s, water treatment and desalination took a major turn with the further development of reverse osmosis (RO) water systems. Today, many power plants, water treatment facilities, and regions around the world are using these systems to provide themselves with quality water while cutting costs and erasing footprint. Below we’ve examined the theory, development, and future potential of this growing technology.


For those with a deeper knowledge base in science, reverse osmosis is the process of forcing a solvent (in this case water) through a semi-permeable membrane against its natural gradient. For the rest of us, this is commonly described as a high level coffee filter. In both cases, there is something left behind, and in the case of water ROs, this something is traditionally a very high percentage of salt.


When initially developed, the RO water treatment was only achieved in a lab setting and not poised for the large-scale application it has today. Although, in a short period of twenty-seven years (from 1950-1977), the first RO water plant was put into use at Cape Coral in Florida with the capacity to treat three million gallons daily. This achievement was made possible with the discovery of double-lined membranes and their ability to increase the flux. With further development of these two items, the reverse osmosis water system became a reality.

Future Potential

Today, there are thousands of plants around the world using reverse osmosis for water treatment. And with the way technology is developing, these systems are getting stronger and starting to filter water at incredible rates. While this is great, there is always room for improvement. Going forward, in-home water reuse within these systems will need to change. Today, RO systems in people’s homes are using approximately four gallons for every one produced and in turn wasting a lot of potentially clean water. Being the cheapest units, these home systems will drive the future of water filtration and have the ability to really impact and change the world.

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