Alternatives for Reducing the Environmental Impact of the Main Residue from a Desalination Plant

Montserrat Meneses Benitez, M. Meneses, JC. Pasqualino, R. Céspedes-Sánchez, F. Castells

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69 Citations (Scopus)


One of the most important problems today is the scarcity of fresh water safe enough for human, industrial, and agricultural use. Desalination is an alternative source of fresh water supply in areas with severe problems of water availability. Desalination plants generate a huge amount of brine as the main residual from the plant (about 55% of collected seawater). Because of that, it is important to determine the best environmental option for the brine disposal. This article makes a global environmental analysis, under Spanish conditions, of a desalination plant and an environmental assessment of different final brine disposals, representing a range of the most common alternatives: direct disposal, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) outflow dilution, and dilution with seawater. The environmental profile of the plant operation and a comparison of the brine final disposal alternatives were established by means of the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. From an analysis of the whole plant we observed that the highest environmental impact was caused by energy consumption, especially at the reverse osmosis stage, while the most relevant waste was brine. From an analysis of brine final disposal we have elaborated a comparison of the advantages and detriments of the three alternatives. As all of them might be suitable in different specific situations, the results might be useful in decisions about final brine disposal. © 2010 by Yale University.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-527
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


  • Brine dilution
  • Brine disposal
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Industrial ecology
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Waste management


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