such as the type of desalination technology and the method of concentrate management employed. The implementation of a desalination project typically requires multiple permits from federal, state, and local agencies. In general, the regulatory programs and associated permitting processes revolve, and can be broadly classified, around the three streams involved in the process (Stratus Consulting, 2006):

  1. Source water (or feedwater stream) permits address the location and means of obtaining the source water used by the desalination facility.

  2. Potable water (or finished water stream) permits address the use of the finished water produced by the desalination facility.

  3. Waste (concentrate and other associated waste stream) permits address the treatment or discharge of the waste streams, including concentrate, chemical wastes from cleaning processes, and any other waste associated with the operation of the facility.

Other required permits (e.g., building, site work, roadway crossings) are similar to those required for construction of other types of water treatment facilities and are not addressed here. Some state and local authorities may require other permits in addition to those discussed in this section (see Cooley et al. [2006] for examples of California permit requirements).

Of the three categories just defined, the regulatory issues related to the permitting of the concentrate and other waste streams are typically the most involved. The key federal permit requirements are related to the Clean Water Act. To obtain the permits, extensive environmental impact analyses may be required, depending on the specific discharge method proposed. Most of the permits provide for extensive review and comment from resource agencies and the public.

Source Water Permits

Source water permit requirements depend on the location of the desalination facility. For an inland groundwater facility, no significant regulatory approval is required for the groundwater wells, unless water rights or pumping permits are required. For a stand-alone coastal desalination facility, the following permits will be required for a new intake pipe:

  • a Clean Water Act (Sections 316b and 404) permit, issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates intakes and the discharge of dredged materials into navigable waters (see also Box 5-1);

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