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© 2015 Elsevier B.V. We demonstrate the use of Earth's field (EF) Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to provide early non-destructive detection of active biofouling of a commercial spiral wound reverse osmosis (RO) membrane module. The RO membrane module was actively biofouled to different extents, by the addition of biodegradable nutrients to the feed stream, as revealed by a subtle feed-channel pressure drop increase. Easily accessible EF NMR parameters (signal relaxation parameters T1, T2 and the total NMR signal modified to be sensitive to stagnant fluid only) were measured and analysed in terms of their ability to detect the onset of biofouling. The EF NMR showed that fouling near the membrane module entrance significantly distorted the flow field through the whole membrane module. The total NMR signal is shown to be suitable for non-destructive early biofouling detection of spiral wound membrane modules, it was readily deployed at high (operational) flow rates, was particularly sensitive to flow field changes due to biofouling and could be deployed at any position along the membrane module axis. In addition to providing early fouling detection, the mobile EF NMR apparatus could also be used to (i) evaluate the production process of spiral wound membrane modules, and (ii) provide an in-situ determination of module cleaning process efficiency.