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Forward osmosis membranes for direct fertigation within the South African wine industry
Water scarcity in South Africa (SA) and more specifically Cape Town, Western Cape, has escalated to disaster levels in 2018. Agriculture and irrigation account for 62% of SA’s accessible potable water (Thopil & Pouris, 2016), and although the agriculture sector plays a pivotal role in SA’s socio-economic development, the future of the sector is dependent on critical issues such as climate variability and population growth (Besada & Werner, 2015). Wine production in SA is an important agricultural activity, contributing great economic value to the agri-food sector. However, despite this, the wine industry is responsible for vast water consumption and the unsafe disposal of winery wastewater, which are critical issues from an environmental and economic standpoint. The ever-imminent crisis pertaining to the limited supply of fresh water from conventional water resources has necessitated the need to develop alternative water resources to supplement an increased water supply, which include the reuse of wastewater, ground water, brackish water (BW) and seawater (SW) desalination. When fresh water supplies are limited, agricultural irrigation is penalised. The reuse of agricultural wastewater as a substitution for potable water irrigation may prove beneficial in areas where water shortages are severe. Forward osmosis (FO) is a developing desalination technology that has received increased attention as a promising lower-energy desalination technology. FO technology relies on the natural osmotic process, driven by a concentration gradient as opposed to significant hydraulic pressures like reverse osmosis (RO). Water is extracted from a lower concentrated feed solution (FS) to a highly concentrated draw solution (DS). The term “lower energy” is only applicable for applications where the recovery of the DS is not required. FO technology offers several advantages. However, the lack of suitable membrane modules and DSs hinder its practical application. FO offers novelty applications in which specialised DSs are selected to serve as the final product water, most notably concentrated fertilisers for direct fertigation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance and compatibility of commercially available cellulose triacetate (CTA) and aquaporin biomimetic FO membranes with commonly used fertilisers for direct fertigation within the SA wine industry, using a fertiliser drawn forward osmosis (FDFO) system.