Potential effects of desalinated water quality on the operation stability of wastewater treatment plants

Beni Lew, Malka Cochva, Ori Lahav*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Desalinated water is expected to become the major source of drinking water in many places in the near future, and thus the major source of wastewater to arrive at wastewater treatment plants. The paper examines the effect of the alkalinity value with which the water is released from the desalination plant on the alkalinity value that would develop within the wastewater treatment process under various nitrification-denitrification operational scenarios. The main hypothesis was that the difference in the alkalinity value between tap water and domestic wastewater is almost exclusively a result of the hydrolysis of urea (NH2CONH2, excreted in the human urine) to ammonia (NH3), regardless of the question what fraction of NH3(aq) is transformed to NH4+. Results from a field study show that the ratio between the alkalinity added to tap water when raw wastewater is formed (in meq/l units) and the TAN (total ammonia nitrogen, mole/l) concentration in the raw wastewater is almost 1:1 in purely domestic sewage and close to 1:1 in domestic wastewater streams mixed with light industry wastewaters. Having established the relationship between TAN and total alkalinity in raw wastewater the paper examines three theoretical nitrification-denitrification treatment scenarios in the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The conclusion is that if low-alkalinity desalinated water constitutes the major water source arriving at the WWTP, external alkalinity will have to be added in order to avoid pH drop and maintain process stability. The results lead to the conclusion that supplying desalinated water with a high alkalinity value (e.g. ≥ 100 mg/l as CaCO3) would likely prevent the need to add costly basic chemicals in the WWTP, while, in addition, it would improve the chemical and biological stability of the drinking water in the distribution system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2404-2410
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number7
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Alkalinity
  • Ammonia
  • Desalinated water
  • Quality regulations
  • Urea


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