Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2016\Development of Habitat Restoration Programs for the Mitigation of Impingement and Entrainment Effects from Intakes for Seawater Desalination Facilities

Development of Habitat Restoration Programs for the Mitigation of Impingement and Entrainment Effects from Intakes for Seawater Desalination Facilities

Project: 13-06
Type: White Paper
Year Released: 2016

Program: Principal
Total Investment: $120,796 (Cash: $89,740, In-Kind cash and service: $31,056)

Principal Investigator: John Steinbeck, Tenera Environmental


The withdrawal of water poses a risk of IM&E of aquatic organisms residing in the source water body. A scientifically based methodology is needed to translate actual IM&E impacts of seawater desalination plant intake operations into practical measures to mitigate such impacts. This project will provide clear understanding of the available IM&E mitigation methods and will aid in planning and permitting the desalination project accordingly.

Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives included the following:

  • Identify available methods for mitigating impingement mortality and entrainment (IM&E) at seawater plant intakes. Methods may include the development of wetlands, artificial reefs, kelp bed habitats, etc.
  • Define objective criteria that can be used to calculate the type/size of habitat needed to offset the IM&E losses due to intake operations.
  • Provide analysis and ranking of all available mitigation methods.
  • Prepare a step-by-step methodology for the implementation of a seawater intake IM&E mitigation program.
  • Define the scope of field studies needed to monitor the performance of the mitigation program against the actual intake impacts for each of the identified mitigation methods.
  • Identify and describe case studies of existing IM&E mitigation programs.
  • Define the criteria by which success is measured, whether the criteria are scientific or regulatory based.

Research Approach

  • Task 1: Complete a literature review and review of actual existing mitigation and habitat restoration programs. Identify their success rate, key advantages and disadvantages. Discuss program design, implementation, and success in relation to the regulatory agencies responsible for the enforcement and monitoring of the implementation of IM&E mitigation programs.
  • Task 2: Identify mitigation approaches proven to have a high probability of success. Describe case studies of successful IM&E mitigation programs developed for seawater intakes.
  • Task 3: Prepare a checklist of conditions that a given mitigation project should fulfill in order to be considered suitable for IM&E mitigation.
  • Task 4: Define a methodology for assessing the size of the mitigation project based on the actual IM&E impact of intake operations.
  • Task 5: Develop a framework for a monitoring program which verifies the success rate of the applied mitigation program.

Findings and Conclusions

Habitat restoration as compensatory mitigation for IM&E impacts from desalination intakes in coastal and estuarine environments is a viable solution to addressing the sustainable implementation of large scale coastal desalination. Compensatory mitigation for environmental effects is an established field in many other areas of environmental development planning.

As with all project planning activities, early consideration of environmental factors will ensure that implementation progresses smoothly and will increase the likelihood of success. This early consideration should include the identification of goals and objectives, as well as the incorporation of stakeholder issues that should continue throughout the process. Objective scaling requires a quantitative approach, and relative approaches, such as the ETM/APF, are likely to be the most robust scaling methods to apply to IM&E effects because of the highly variable nature of marine populations, particularly planktonic populations subject to entrainment effects.

The successful implementation of a restoration project requires an adaptive management approach. The principle of a relative approach also should be applied in the design of a monitoring program that will inform the adaptive management of any restoration program when it comes to implementation. An adaptive management approach ensures that if unforeseen environmental responses to the measures being implemented by the project, the environmental responses can be addressed with remedial measures. The relative approach to assessment of goals through a monitoring program design also will provide for a way to incorporate the normally high variability in natural marine environments into the goals of the program and to manage the risk associated with adaptive management of restoration project implementation.

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