Environmental Impact and Impact Assessment of Seawater Desalination

Environmental Impact and Impact Assessment of Seawater Desalination


Desalination of seawater accounts for a worldwide water production of 24.5 million m3 /day. A “hot spot” of intense desalination activity has always been the Arabian Gulf, but other regional centers of activity emerge and become more prominent, such as the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, or the coastal waters of California, China and Australia.

Despite the many benefits the technology has to offer, concerns rise over potential negative impacts on the environment. Key issues are the concentrate and chemical discharges to the marine environment, the emissions of air pollutants and the energy demand of the processes.

To safeguard a sustainable use of desalination technology, the impacts of each major desalination project should be investigated and mitigated by means of a project- and location-specific environmental impact assessment (EIA) study, while the benefits and impacts of different water supply options should be balanced on the scale of regional management plans.

In this context, our paper intends to present an overview on present seawater desalination capacities by region, a synopsis of the key environmental concerns of desalination, including ways of mitigating the impacts of desalination on the environment, and of avoiding some of the dangers of the environment to desalination.

Keywords : Seawater desalination; Environmental impact; Impact assessment; EIA; Marine environment; Brine; Wastewater; Energy; Chemicals; Chlorine; Antiscalants

Sabine Lattemann, Thomas Höpner