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Database of Permitting Practices for Seawater Concentrate Disposal

Project: 13-07
Type: Scientific Investigation

Program: Principal
Total Budget: $149,895 (Cash: $100,000, In-Kind cash and service: $49,895)

Principal Investigator: Mike Mickley, Mickley and Associates LLC


The desalination project information and permitting decision tree information will allow for both the permit applicant and the permitting agencies to gain common grounds in terms of expectations and requirements which would hopefully shorten or eliminate the permitting learning curve on both sides.

Goals and Objectives

The project will identify the discharge information permitting agencies need and the decision-making process they go through to permit alternative discharge methods in order to help desalination project proponents focus and expedite their permitting efforts. This can be done by doing the following:

  • Share information on permitting practices and decision-making process (decision tree) for existing desalination projects.
  • Use the existing USBR national database of completed desalination projects as well as permitting practices from countries including Australia and Spain, which at a minimum includes the following information:
    • Source water quality characterization data
    • Treatment processes
    • Discharge water quality data
    • Permit requirements and limits
  • For each project identify the three most important factors that drove the decision and requirements for its design. Develop a decision-tree indicating the steps taken to determine the specific discharge limits, such as source water quality characterization, WET testing, pilot testing to generate waste stream data, characterization of concentrate and other waste streams, etc.

Research Approach

Task 1: Collect information on seawater desalination projects in the US, Australia, and Spain, including plant size, technologies, permitting requirements and source and concentrate water quality characterization in terms of:

  • Salinity
  • pH
  • Temperature
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)
  • Primary metals
  • Nutrients

Task 2: For each desalination project prepare a list of all discharge-related permits which had to be obtained and permitting agencies issuing the permits.

Task 3: Work with permit agencies to understand the decision-making tree process for key seawater desalination projects permitted by the state.

Task 4: Develop compendium of permitting practices discussing various approaches for regulating seawater plant discharges.

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