An interdisciplinary team of six students from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE) spent twelve months working with the India based, social enterprise, Sarvajal, to help address a water resource challenge facing their organization. Sarvajal works to provide clean and affordable drinking water to rural communities in India by employing the technology of Reverse Osmosis (RO) on a local scale. This process is considered one of the best water purification technologies currently available; however, as a by-product of this process, brine is produced that contains concentrated dissolved contaminants. Finding affordable methods to treat or use this brine is difficult. The team of students worked with Sarvajal to try and help address the challenges created by this RO brine. The contents of this report outline the work of the students and their recommendations for Sarvajal.
The team conducted extensive research on possible applications for the RO brine, but as the project progressed, the team noticed operational inefficiencies and data gaps that presented barriers to successfully implementing specific applications. As a result, the team developed overarching recommendations, in addition to providing research on specific applications. Applications were researched that had the potential to address environmental, social, and economic impacts of brine management. The team’s recommendations were designed to facilitate the eventual implementation of some of the brine applications and to identify promising applications that warrant further consideration from Sarvajal. These recommendations include: expanding data collection and including additional parameters in brine testing, regionalizing efficiency standards for increased production, improving communications about RO brine use amongst Sarvajal and its franchisees, and investing in further research for select promising applications.