A novel hydrophilic cellulose ester with a high intrinsic water permeability and a water partition coefficient was discovered to construct membrane supports for flat-sheet thin film composite (TFC) forward osmosis (FO) membranes for water reuse and seawater desalination with high performance. The performance of TFC-FO membranes prepared from the hydrophilic cellulose ester containing a high degree of OH and a moderate degree of Pr substitutions clearly surpasses those prepared from cellulose esters and other polymers with moderate hydrophilicity. Post-treatments of TFC-FO membranes using sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) and glycerol followed by heat treatment further enhance the water flux without compromising the selectivity. Positron annihilation lifetime analyses have confirmed that the SDS/glycerol post-treatment increases the free volume size and fractional free volume of the polyamide selective layer. The newly developed post-treated TFC-FO membranes exhibit a remarkably high water flux up to 90 LMH when the selective layer is oriented towards the draw solution (i.e., PRO mode) using 1. M NaCl as the draw solution and DI water as the feed. For seawater desalination, the membranes display a high water flux up to 35 LMH using a 2. M NaCl draw solution. These water fluxes exceeded the water fluxes achieved by other types of FO membranes reported in literatures. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.