Sustainable RO desalination – Energy demand and environmental impact

Hilla Shemer, Raphael Semiat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The expedient solution to water scarcity worldwide is desalinization. Nevertheless, common misconceptions of high cost, energy intensiveness and negative ecological footprint hinder global implementation. The objective of this paper is to refute some unsubstantiated claims regarding the energy demand and environmental impacts of reverse osmosis desalination. Energy consumption of RO desalination constitutes only a small fraction of a national cumulative energy demand. Meanwhile significant cost reductions of desalinated water are not expected in the near future. To date, worldwide chemical and biological monitoring programs show that brine discharge from desalination plants have localized minimal impacts on the marine environment. Properly sited, designed and operated RO desalination plants contribute to reduced energy demand and environmental footprint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Brine discharge, energy consumption, cost
  • Ecosystem
  • Marine environment
  • Reverse osmosis


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