The environmental issues of possible concern during construction and operation of desalination plants (mainly large-scale facilities) include impacts that are common to many coastal development projects (e.g. land use and aesthetic impacts), as well as specific impacts associated with the elements of the desalination system and auxiliary infrastructure. In the latter category these relate to the introduction of highly saline brine and process additives to the marine environment, and to the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants due to the energy demand of the desalination process. Other environmental issues of possible concern must be considered, such as entrainment and impingement of marine organisms from the intake of seawater, hazards associated with storage and use of various chemicals, noise, etc. Most of the potential environmental impacts during construction and operation of desalination facilities are of a local nature. The potential environmental impacts during operation are mostly continuous, while those associated with construction activities are temporary and mostly reversible.
IDE strives to conduct its business with responsibility towards the environment and promotes the use of environmentally friendly technologies and approaches, avoiding or mitigating potential environmental impacts. The specific mitigation measures represent the ‘state-of-the-art’ with respect to environmental management of desalination facilities and ensure compliance with applicable environmental legislation.
This paper assesses the potential environmental impacts on the marine and terrestrial environments, as well as on the atmosphere, at both construction and operation stages of large-scale desalination facilities, and describes the solutions implemented at IDE’s largest and most modern facility in Sorek (150M m 3 /y – 624,000 m3 /d), which have been classified as the “best available technology”, on the management of the potential environmental impacts.
Field experience results of several monitoring programs on the marine environment in the proximity of large scale desalt plants in Israel and Australia is also assessed.