The Sustainable L.A. Grand Challenge and UCLA Engineering Professor Yoram Cohen, a leader in desalination technologies and smart water systems, will take part in the White House Water Summit on Tuesday, March 22.

Held in conjunction with the United Nations World Water Day, the summit is designed to raise awareness of water challenges and potential solutions in the United States, and to catalyze efforts to help build a sustainable and secure water future through science and technology.

This event will be livestreamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Sustainable LA is a UCLA-led effort to make Los Angeles County sustainable in water, energy and biodiversity by 2050.

Cohen is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. His efforts to support water sustainability and security include:

  • Smart distributed water systems. Cohen’s lab is developing and testing technologies for remotely monitored and controlled autonomous water-treatment and purification systems. These systems are designed to serve communities and small towns whose water supply is compromised by dry conditions or contaminated groundwater. In the first two years of the project, distributed water systems will be deployed in three or four remote and disadvantaged communities in California, each with no more than 60 households, that do not have access to safe drinking water. The long-term goal is to make these inexpensive and safe water systems available in rural areas across the United States.
  • Affordable water desalination. Cohen’s group seeks to reduce the operational and energy costs of water treatment and desalination systems. Through advanced monitoring of reverse-osmosis membrane and filtering processes, developing standardizing configuration for desal systems, and by embedding advanced nanosensors in water-treatment processes to enable autonomous and robust self-adaptive operation, the group hopes to achieve a cost decrease of 30%-to-50% in smart water treatment and desalination systems. In recent years Cohen’s lab developed a mobile water treatment plant designed to reduce the costs of removing salt and harmful solids out of brackish groundwater and agricultural runoff. The plant, installed in 40-foot cargo container, is able to produce about 30,000 gallons of drinking water a day. The system treats water at a cost of less than 30 cents per 1,000 liters, while bottled water costs about $1 to $3 per liter.