Ion exchange technology is currently the best for removing nitrate from drinking water. However, problems related to the disposal of spent brine from regeneration of exhausted resins must be overcome so that ion exchange can be applied more widely and economically, especially in small communities. For this purpose, a novel spent brine recycling system using combined biological denitrification and sulfate reduction processes was developed for more efficient reuse of brine. A granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption column was introduced as an additional step to prevent contamination of resins by bio-polymers and dissolved organics present in the bio-reactor effluent. Two upflow sludge blanket reactors (USBRs) were operated in series for 166 days to provide denitrification and sulfate reduction. The denitrification reactor provided a nitrate removal efficiency of 96% at a nitrate-N loading rate of 5.4gNO(3)(-)-N/ld. The sulfate reduction efficiency of the sulfate reduction reactor remained similar to62% at a sulfate loading rate of 1.8 g SO42-/ld. Five ion exchange columns containing A520E resins were repeatedly operated in up to 25 cycles of service and regeneration using five kinds of brine: one virgin 3% NaCl and four differently recycled spent brines. Throughput decreased remarkably when the biologically recycled brine was not treated with the GAC column, probably due to the presence of bio-polymers and dissolved organic compounds. The sulfate reduction reactor placed after the denitrification step increased the bicarbonate concentration, which could be used as a co-regenerant with chloride. The inclusion of the sulfate reduction reactor into the conventional brine recycling system allowed. more efficient reuse of brine, resulting in both reduced salt consumption and brine discharge. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.