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Consideration of the Co-Sting of Desalination Facilities with Municipal and Industrial Facilities

Project: 06-10 (Phase D)
Year Released: 2013
Type: Decision Making Tool

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Water Resources, Sandia National Laboratories
Total Investment: $249,973.76 (Cash)

Principal Investigator: Val S. Frenkel, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE., ARCADIS


Co-siting of desalination facilities with municipal and industrial facilities has been employed in different parts of the world, initially starting with thermal desalination processes and then progressing to seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) facilities as the commercialized SWRO systems became economical compared to the other desalination processes. Similarly to thermal desalination, SWRO facilities have been most widely co-sited with coastal power plants, taking advantage of the excessive heat (power) from the power plants; the elevated temperature of the cooling waters; and existing cooling water intake and outfall structures. Other lesser-known co-siting scenarios include a shared outfall with a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) or other industrial facility.

The key advantage of co-siting is the direct connection of the desalination plant intake and/or discharge facilities to the intake and/or outfall of an adjacently located coastal power plant or industrial or municipal facility. The sharing of this infrastructure allows the use of industrial process water (e.g., the cooling water for the power plant) as source water for the desalination plant and/or as receiving water for the desalination plant concentrate discharge. As a result of blending this water with the desalination plant concentrate, the salinity of the concentrate is greatly reduced before the blended water is discharged to the receiving water.

Goals and Objectives

The project documents the economic, environmental, water supply, water quality, public relation issues, and other advantages/disadvantages in co-siting new desalination facilities with municipal or industrial operations. It also compares co-siting with standalone facilities and introduces a decision-making tool that can be used to evaluate desalination co-siting.

Research Approach

The research methodology for this project included compiling data from co-siting case studies around the world, conducting a workshop with representatives from the desalination and water reuse communities, and developing a decision tool to compare information gathered from each case study. Thirty-one case studies were researched as part of this project. The data gathering began with a literature review of planned and operational co-sited facilities. A comprehensive questionnaire was developed to facilitate interviews with facility representatives. Facility data were compared to find correlations between similar facilities. The data, presented in a series of tables and graphs, also provide the reader with a sense of the range of sizes, costs, and approaches to co-siting in planned and constructed facilities across the globe.

Findings and Conclusions

The majority of co-siting projects were conceived in the mid-1990’s and early 2000’s, with surprisingly few in the initial planning stages now. The research showed that over one-third of the projects evaluated are currently on-hold or not moving forward and approximately one-third are in the pilot, planning and permitting phases. Projects that were identified as no longer moving forward were delayed or cancelled due to reasons such as environmental obstacles, concentrate disposal limitations, or poor source water salinity near the power plant. The majority of projects involve co-siting with a power plant, followed by co-siting with a wastewater treatment plant. The growing opposition in the United States from the environmental community, public, and government agencies about the impacts to coastal ecosystems from coastal power plants that use once through cooling may impact future co-siting projects in California and possibly other parts of the United States. Sharing of intake and discharge infrastructure is one of the most fundamental advantages of the co-siting facilities, with potential cost savings, and environmental and public relations benefits. O&M costs for co-sited facilities were generally found to be lower comparing to the stand alone facilities.

The Co-siting Decision Tool is a Microsoft® Excel-based program that provides planning-level information on desalination co-location scenarios grouped into five categories: (1) technical, (2) estimated economics, (3) environmental issues, (4) co-siting advantages, and (5) co-siting disadvantages. Output provided by the Decision Tool is based on calculations and empirical evidence derived from the co-siting case study research. The Decision Tool is intended to be an early stage planning and project development tool for cost estimation and an educational tool for project planners to understand the factors that affect projects and the relationships of those factors.

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