Social, environmental and economic issues

Desalination is still a relatively controversial public issue. Most of this controversy revolves around the energy intensity of desalination and concerns over the environmental impacts of brine concentrate and other waste products. The production of data and the application of scientific rigour that provides an independent analysis and assessment of controversial issues associated with desalination would go a long way toward addressing public concerns in a constructive manner. There is an opportunity for research that assists the development of a scientifically informed public awareness program. Widespread deployment of desalination, while dependent on improvements in critical system requirements, will also require attention to environmental impact, social concerns, economic policy, and other non-technical barriers.

These were the primary research areas:

  1. Appropriate disposal or reuse of spent membrane cartridges;
  2. Total life cycle analysis and sustainability assessment of desalination against other water sources;
  3. Public perception analysis and improvement through education and communication;
  4. Policy development;
  5. Centralised understanding of national desalination deployment, performance, and lessons learnt;
  6. Detailed understanding of the salinity and toxin tolerance of marine species in the vicinity of SWRO outflows; and
  7. Managed entrainment of small marine organisms in SWRO intakes.

Soc Env Eco

Across the five Priority Research Themes, investment in social, environmental and economic research represented 23% of the Centre’s total research investment, with 25 of the 50 projects addressing one or more of these primary areas.

Please see the Program and Projects page for details on individual projects.

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