Environmental Protection

IDA's Pankratz Notes Desalination Efforts to Consider Impacts

Speaking at the IDA World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse, Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association (IDA), noted efforts by the industry to address issues surrounding environmental concerns.

“We have done much to mitigate potential environmental effects, but we must be particularly diligent as desalination continues to grow, utilizing technological advances, implementing best practices and continuing to exchange information so that we move forward in the most environmentally responsible way,” Pankratz said.

He noted that large-scale seawater desalination projects are now being developed in locations where they never had been previously considered as well as in water short areas. These factors present different sets of challenges.

“The process of mitigating environmental impacts begins with siting of the desalination plant. The desalination process itself must also be considered. No two locations or plants are exactly alike, so most new projects require several years of study, modeling, and pilot testing before the design and construction can move forward.

“Protection of marine life is, of course, a key concern. New intake and outfall alternatives are available and plans should be evaluated by groups of specialists that include marine biologists and toxicologists, hydrogeologists and oceanographers. Monitoring programs are another important step in environmental responsibility. In addition, the industry has developed several options that can be employed to reduce the impact of concentrate discharge, and there are new technologies that offer the promise of further reductions,” he said.

Pankratz pointed out that the desalination industry has reduced energy requirements by up to 50 percent as a result of technological improvements over the last 15 years. Research under way includes projects that couple desalination plants with wind, solar or wave energy sources.

The Kwinana plant in Perth, is an example of environmentally responsible desalination. Commissioned in February 2007, the project is a showcase for almost every environmental mitigation measure currently considered state-of-the-art. Extensive environmental studies preceded construction, and continuous, real-time monitoring since startup has demonstrated the plant’s ability to operate without adversely impacting the environment, Pankratz added.

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