Desalination: Resource and Guidance Manual for Environmental Impact Assessments

United Nations Environment Programme ; World Health Organization (2008)

The world's oceans have always been a source of food and other goods. The industrial‐scale production of drinking water from the sea, however, has only become possible since the 1950s. Today the worldwide number of desalination plants increases at rapid pace, as production costs of desalinated water have declined and many regions turn to desalination in order to alleviate the burdens of water scarcity. Desalination undoubtedly offers a wide variety of benefits for human health and socio‐economic development. It provides a seemingly unlimited, draught‐resistant and constant supply of high quality drinking water while reducing the pressures on freshwater ecosystems and groundwater aquifers. In spite of these advantages, concerns are raised over potential negative impacts of desalination activity on the environment. These need to be investigated and mitigated in order to safeguard a sustainable use of desalination technologies, which can be attained by conducting project‐ and location‐specific environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies. This publication intends to assist project designers, regulators and decision makers to anticipate and address all relevant public health, socio‐economic and environmental concerns that may arise when undertaking a desalination project, for obtaining maximum beneficial use of the desalinated water in terms of quality, safety and environmental protection.

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