How Reverse Osmosis Aids in Wastewater Treatment

We all learned about osmosis in high school science (or earlier). This is the process by which a solvent (such as water molecules) moves through a semipermeable membrane from a low-concentration solution on one side to an area of greater concentration on the other side in order to equalize the concentration on either side of the membrane.

That’s a mouthful. So what is reverse osmosis? Put simply, it is a reversal of this process brought about through increased pressure. When pressure (greater than the osmotic pressure) is applied on the side of the membrane with greater concentration, the solvent is forced into the lower-concentration solution.

This is a lot for the layman to understand, but the importance of reverse osmosis lies in its applications for removing contaminants from solutions in order to concentrate them on one side of a membrane while purifying the solution on the other side. Reverse osmosis therefore has several real-world applications, including wastewater treatment.

How can reverse osmosis be implemented into the average water treatment system? Is it a feasible solution for commercial interests or is it reserved for larger scale operations like industrial water treatment or municipal water treatment?

How does it work as part of a larger system of wastewater treatment? Here’s what you need to know about how reverse osmosis can aid in the treatment of waste water.


First and foremost, it’s important to understand that reverse osmosis is a delicate process designed to work on a microscopic scale. In other words, it’s not the first or even the second step in the wastewater treatment process.

Whether you work in food processing and you employ your own wastewater treatment system on-site or you’re dealing with sewage water treatment for a large municipality, you need to pre-treat waste water in a variety of ways before you even consider adding reverse osmosis to the process. Pre-treatment could include several steps, such as sifting out large solids and then smaller solids, removing oils and sludge, and using bacteria and aeration to break down remaining contaminants.

Reverse osmosis is a means of water purification at the molecular level. The semipermeable membrane through which water must pass is necessarily dense and can easily become clogged if large particulates remain in the water.

Although pre-filters are generally part of any reverse osmosis system, you still need to decontaminate water to a degree before it ever reaches this stage. This will ensure that you don’t cause undo damage to your reverse osmosis system.

Benefits of Reverse Osmosis

There are many benefits to using reverse osmosis in the treatment of waste water. First and foremost, it is used for purification, producing water that is safe to release back into natural waterways.

Thanks to the removal of bacteria and other contaminants, waste water that undergoes reverse osmosis is extremely pure – perhaps even more so than some water found in nature. This process could even produce potable (drinkable) water.

The applications for reverse osmosis systems are being seen around the world, not only in wastewater treatment, but through home goods that help to further purify tap water and in military operations whereby nearly any water source can be treated to produce drinkable water.

Producing clean water is the main goal of reverse osmosis when it comes to wastewater treatment, and on this score it delivers by desalinating, disinfecting, and removing harmful contaminants from water so that it can safely be returned to waterways or repurposed for irrigation or other uses. Of course, there are other benefits, as well.

Cost-effectiveness is also a biggie. While installing a reverse osmosis system in the home is likely to be rather costly due to the amount of water discarded (as opposed to the purified water produced), the same is not true of larger scale operations. Reverse osmosis tends to increase the output of purified water at the industrial or municipal level, making it a highly cost-effective addition to any wastewater treatment system.

Who Can Use Reverse Osmosis for Wastewater Treatment?

As noted above, practically anyone can get their hands on a reverse osmosis system, but in terms of wastewater treatment, the process is both viable and advisable for any number of industries, from sewage treatment to food processing. Reverse osmosis systems are less costly than some alternatives and the increased output they produce makes them well worthwhile.

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