FIGURE 4-1. Key elements of a desalination system. Although shown here for a membrane-based system, these steps also describe the major components of non-membrane systems. SOURCE: Modified from Buros et al. (1980).

their current technical barriers are discussed in this chapter. The focus of the chapter is on technologies that are commercially available or in the late stages of development, although some emerging technologies that are still in the early phases of research and development are discussed in boxes.


Desalination facilities require a reliable supply of feedwater. Feedwater quantity and quality vary based on the specifics of the site and often determine the feasibility of siting a plant at a given location. Intake designs can affect feedwater quality and the environmental impacts of a desalination facility at a given site. Current technologies and issues with desalination intakes are discussed in this section.

Brackish water desalination facilities can utilize feedwater from surface water sources or wells. Inland desalination plants use intake technology that is no different from traditional water-treatment plants dependent on surface water or groundwater, and this technology is well developed. Therefore, these technologies will not be described in detail here. There are important environmental issues, however, associated with

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