Lesico CleanTech

Brine disposal from land based membrane desalination plants: a critical assessment

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The earliest applications of desalination technology date back to the use of boiler condensate on early “steam-ships”. Installation of large-scale land-based desalination facilities began in the Middle East shortly after the end of WW II. These saline water evaporators were sited along the Persian Gulf and other costal locations. An especially large increase in desalination capacity began in the late 1960’s as a result of the proven reliability of reverse osmosis membrane desalination systems. In general, brine disposal at costal sites has met with few problems provided that careful consideration was given to sitting the outfall conduit.

Following more than three decades of continuing expansion of sea water desalination capacity at costal sites, considerable interest has now shifted to reclamation and reuse of inland water sources. Worldwide desalination capacity has more than doubled in the past two years according to a recent article by Wangnick [1] and this trend is expected to continue in the near future. Of special concern is the ongoing increase in salinity of natural water resources in the South Western United States and especially in Southern California, which depends, to a large extent, on the Colorado River and other water resources, with salinity levels in excess of the U. S. Public Health Service standard [2]. As a result of shortage of good quality ground water and surface water, several states including Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Utah and California, have conducted field studies and/or implemented membrane desalination technology to various degrees.

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