Marine monitoring surveys for desalination plants-A critical review

Sabine Lattemann, Gary L. Amy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies are standard practice and a regulatory requirement for most new desalination projects today. However, most of the EIA studies are limited to predictive information; that is, they gather information on the project and the project's environment before project implementation to make predictions about likely impacts. The EIAs may involve comprehensive studies, such as field monitoring, laboratory toxicity testing, and modeling studies. Consequently, the"surprising paucity of useful experimental data, either from laboratory tests or from field monitoring studies", which was observed by the US National Research Council in 2008, has been gradually decreasing. However, there is still a long-term research need on the site-specific effects of desalination plants after project commissioning has taken place. A main challenge of field research is the adequate design of the monitoring studies, which have to adequately distinguish the effects of the desalination project from natural processes over long periods of time. The existing monitoring studies have so far used a wide range of approaches and methods to investigate the environmental impacts of desalination plant discharges. Shortfalls are often that they are limited in scope, short-term, or localized. In essence, many studies fall short of recognizing the potentially synergetic effects of the single waste components of the discharges on marine organisms and the complexity of the potential responses by the ecosystem. While the possible risk of damage arising from the concentrate discharge to the marine environment in close proximity to the outfall is at hand, no conclusive evidence can yet be provided concerning the long-term impacts of desalination plant discharges, let alone the cumulative impacts on certain sea areas. This paper conducts a critical review of existing monitoring programs for desalination plants. Shortcomings of current practices are identified and relevant aspects to the design of marine monitoring programs outlined, including the scope of the studies as well as their scientific requirements. © 2013 Desalination Publications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalDesalination and Water Treatment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 8 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Marine monitoring surveys for desalination plants-A critical review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this