The Jordanian pilot plant will be located at NCARE’s Karama agricultural station (32°12’N, 35°37’E). This is an ideal site where to conduct the agronomic experiments in Jordan since the agricultural station disposes at this site of 10 ha of agricultural land, which is currently used for research projects in water and saline soil management and saline resistance of cultivars and varieties. The local soil is typical for the area, with a high sand content. Karama is located in the Jordan Valley, which comprises the most agricultural zone in Jordan and where intensive and high-input production methods (mainly intensive vegetable production with high inputs related to irrigation, fertilization, and crop protection) are having a strong negative impact on the sustainability of natural resources. The strong connection established between the agricultural research station and the local community will facilitate the dissemination of the results of the project to the local farmers.
The principal decisions that must be faced in the design of a PV-powered membrane desalination plant (whether NF or RO) concern the three main components of the system: (1) the solar sub-unit; (2) the desalination sub-unit; and (3) the integration between solar and desalination sub-units.
(1) The solar sub-unit.
(2) The desalination sub-unit.
(3) The integration between solar and desalination sub-units.
WP2 Pilot testing & optimization
The initial months after construction of the pilot plants and until the start of the optimal season for the agronomic experiments will be dedicated to testing the compliance of the two pilot plants with design expectations and to optimizing the operational strategies to be used during the agronomic experiments.
Testing and optimization of the pilot plants will be stopped during the agronomic experiment to guarantee that the necessary flow of product – i.e., desalinated water – is consistently delivered to the crops. Testing and optimization will, however, be resumed between the two growing seasons (i.e., between the two agronomic experiments). Regular maintenance of the solar desalination unit will include biweekly washing of the PV panels with treated permeate.
WP3 Agronomic experiments
The quality and suitability of the water supplied by the solar NF desalination plants for agricultural use will be evaluated in a series of agronomic experiments that will be conducted both at the R&D ARAVA and NCARE facilities. Selected for the tests over two growing seasons are sweet pepper and field strawberry. The first is the main vegetable crop grown in the Arava Valley and is chosen to demonstrate the potential of the proposed technology in improving the current agricultural practices (in terms of increased yields and reduced irrigation volumes). Field strawberry is a high value, salt-sensitive horticultural crop that cannot be currently grown with the local brackish water.
A comparison of plant growth and productivity will be carried out while irrigated with water of the two quality levels, i.e., brackish vs. desalinated water.
Project success will be evaluated within this work package. Information will be gathered from the first three work packages to provide the final assessment of technical feasibility and economical viability of the application of the proposed technology in agriculture. The evaluation will be performed at three levels: technological maturity, cost-benefit analysis, and water savings potential. Directions for further research will be clearly identified in this phase.
WP5 Exploitation & dissemination
Work package 5 aims to enhance the exploitation of project results and to disseminate them to the public, including potential end users, stakeholders and scientific community.
Dissemination of the results will occur on two distinct levels. The end users of the technology, farmers looking for irrigation solutions, will benefit from the strong links that R&D ARAVA, NCARE and EPRI have with the local farming communities. Two workshops will be organized by each R&D ARAVA in Hatzeva and NCARE in Karama, during which the new technology developed by AGRISOL can be presented and demonstrated to the local farming community.
The progress and main results of the study will also be publicly available on the R&D ARAVA website (www.agri.co.il) as well as submitted in Arabic and Hebrew to regional water managers and administrators. Signs located at the demonstration plants and acknowledging the contribution of USAID-MERC will promote the visibility of the project.
The management of the project will take place by means of the Project Management Team, the Assembly of Partners chaired by the Coordinator, and the Work Package Leaders. The project will be coordinated by the research team at the Desalination & Water Treatment Department at BGU, which has significant experience in administrative project management, and in cooperation with Dr. Ghermandi at HU. Dr. Messalem, with long-term experience in industrial and university research projects, will be the Coordinator of the project. The Assembly of Partners comprises one person from each partner institution and is chaired by the Coordinator. Each partner representative has the authority to make decisions on behalf of his institution. The Assembly is responsible for: overall project strategy; resolution of conflicts; intellectual property right related strategy; principles for resource allocation; and supervision of the research partners. Decisions concerning the normal running of the project will be made by the Assembly of Partners. Each partner is guaranteed a right to veto decisions that would seriously affect the individual institution’s work. Should the members of the General Assembly fail to reach an agreement on matters of substance, the conflict will be resolved on a one-person-one-vote basis. Meetings of the Assembly of Partners will be held twice a year or more frequently in case of changing of strategies or conflicts.
To ensure timely progress of the work, each work package is assigned a work package leader drawn from the partner institutes responsible for the work package in question. It is his responsibility that the tasks progress according to the defined schedule and that there is sufficient coordination with the other work packages.