Date of Award

Spring 6-2018

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of science (BS)


Global Honors

First Advisor

Elizabeth M. Bruch, J.D., Ph.D.


Freshwater availability is a growing global concern, and desalination is often presented as the solution, but from this important technology comes issues of toxic waste. Ecosystems are delicate areas that contain species adapted to that specific location, and any chemical or physical changes can disrupt the fitness of species. The concentrate byproduct waste from desalination plants is toxic to species if the concentrate is not compatible with the receiving water body. A critical review of scientific articles, industry-leading books, conversations with industry experts, and information from the American Membrane Technology Association conference was used to analyze the current knowledge. Species health and environmental conditions are affected by chemical changes, such as an increase in salinity levels, which may be lethal or detrimental to growth. Desalination process types determine different chemical concentrations and physical characteristics, and depending on the receiving water body, the concentrate needs alteration to be compatible with the receiving water body. Solutions vary by location, but possibilities include beneficial ecological options that restore habitat water volume, economic benefits that use the concentrate, and technical changes that blend the concentrate more effectively in surface water outfalls. Identifying the potential ecological issues from concentrate waste and developing sustainable practices before harm is caused will protect valuable ecosystems that connect all life on earth.