Desalination and environment: A critical analysis of impacts, mitigation strategies, and greener desalination technologies

Ihsanullah Ihsanullah*, Muataz A. Atieh, Muhammad Sajid, Mazen K. Nazal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


The desalination of seawater is perceived as one of the most viable processes to fulfill the mounting demand for freshwater. Despite enormous economic, social, and health benefits offered by desalination, there are several concerns regarding its prospective environmental impacts (EIs). The objective of this work is to critically evaluate the potential EIs of seawater desalination, and assess the prospects of greener desalination. The EIs of desalination on marine environment, land, groundwater, and air quality was systematically reviewed. An attempt has been made to analyze the actuality of these so-called impacts with reference to evidence from real desalination plants. The mitigative measures to counterbalance these unfavorable impacts are critically appraised. Furthermore, the brine management technologies for the disposal of reject stream, the recovery of precious materials and water, and the production of useful chemicals are also reviewed. Current challenges to minimize the adverse impacts of desalination and prospects of sustainable greener desalination to overwhelm global water scarcities are also discussed. The current desalination approaches have moderate and minor negative EIs. However, with proper mitigation and utilization of modern technologies, these impacts can be lessened. Furthermore, by employing various modern techniques, reject brine can be utilized for several useful applications while reducing its adverse impacts simultaneously. Recent advancements in desalination technologies have also offered many alternative approaches that provide a roadmap towards greener desalination. This review article will be beneficial for all the stakeholders in the desalination industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146585
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Brine management
  • Concentrate reuse
  • Desalination
  • Environmental impacts
  • Greener desalination
  • Water scarcity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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