A sustainable membrane operation often requires pretreatment of the feed liquor to improve its technical and economic feasibility. This paper reports the impact of pretreatment on the performance of ceramic microfiltration for several pilot studies at different locations. Four different pretreatment processes were investigated: (1) in-line coagulation (to remove high molecular weight, HMW, dissolved organic carbon, DOC); (2) ion exchange (to remove low molecular weight, LMW, DOC); (3) ozone (for disinfection, taste and odor control, and modifying the character of DOC) (4) ion exchange followed by in-line coagulation (for almost complete removal of DOC). Pretreatment in all cases was needed to control membrane fouling, to establish a technically and economically feasible process. These studies seem to show that the DOC's HMW (which includes biopolymers) and LMW fractions (the latter includes humics/acids), are primarily responsible for the TMP increase after filtration followed by backwashing (irreversible fouling). Removing one of these organic fractions often results in more stable operation. Ozonation in all cases led to better operation, but is not always economically feasible. The feasibility of ozone as pre-treatment depends largely on the initial ozone demand, and whether or not there are secondary treatment targets (e.g., higher virus removal, taste, and/or odor).

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