The main source of potable water in high water-stress areas is commonly produced in brackish and seawater desalination plants. Owing to the presence of high concentration of suspended solids, organic matter and colloidal particles in raw water, pretreatment processes are needed for a stable operation of desalination plants. A submerged membrane ultrafiltration pilot plant has been operated as pretreatment of complex brackish surface water to study the filtration performance. The results show the membrane performance, chemical reagent requirements, water quality and cleaning procedures efficiency of an ultrafiltration pilot plant used as pretreatment for a reverse osmosis system. Alternative chemical cleaning procedures have been satisfactorily implemented, which maximize permeability recovery and allow a stable operation.