Abstract Due to globally increased demand of drinkable and usable water, countries are focusing more in building desalination plants. Desalination plant location selection is a strategic decision and decision makers need to deal with multiple criteria that are sometimes conflicting in nature. In addition to technical and operational aspects, sustainability (social, environmental, economical) aspect needs to be considered in desalination plant location decision. The purpose of this paper is to develop a multi-criteria decision support system (DSS) to rank desalination plant location criteria in United Arab Emirates (UAE) by considering social, environmental, economical, technical and operational aspects. Result shows that technical (21.9%) and economical (20.9%) are top two main aspects of desalination plant location criteria. Similarly, waste water discharge (22.2%), life species (13.3%), real cost of water and government subsidy (18%), quality and quantity of fresh water (12.4%), and water supply network (9%) are the top ranked sub-criteria of environmental, social, economic, technical, and operational aspects respectively.

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