Environmental research should be emphasized up front when implementing the research agenda. Uncertainties regarding environmental impacts and ways to mitigate these impacts are one of the largest hurdles to implementation of desalination in the United States, and research in these areas has the greatest potential for enabling desalination to help meet future water needs in communities facing water shortages. This environmental research includes work to understand environmental impacts of desalination intakes and concentrate management, the development of improved intake methods to minimize impingement and entrainment, and cost-effective concentrate management technologies.
Research funding in support of reducing the costs of desalination (Goal 2) should be directed strategically toward research topics that are likely to make improvements against benchmarks set by the best current technologies for desalination. Because the private sector is already making impressive strides toward Goal 2, federal research funding should emphasize the long-term and high-risk research that may not be attempted by the private sector and that is in the public interest, such as research on novel technologies that significantly reduce prime energy use.
Wide dissemination of requests for proposals to meet the goals of the research agenda will benefit the quality of research achieved. Requests for proposals should extend to federal agencies, national laboratories, research institutions, utilities, other countries, and the private sector. Investigator-driven research through unsolicited proposals should be permitted throughout the proposal process. Proposals should be peer-reviewed and based on quality of research proposed, the potential contribution, prior evidence of successful research, and effective dissemination.