Both brackish water desalination and seawater desalination processes are well established and in common use around the globe to create new water supply sources. The farther the location of the source water from the ocean or seashore, the lower the salinity (TDS) of the water and the lower the osmotic pressure that needs to be overcome when desalinated water is produced. This is one of the major reasons that brackish desalination is often considered less costly than seawater desalination. A number of project considerations, however, indicate that seawater desalination can be beneficial and more cost-effective than brackish water desalination. To make a fair comparison, we need to properly compare all major aspects of both types of projects to define the best and most appropriate desalination technology. While brackish water has less feed water TDS, it is more challenging to dispose of the produced concentrate. Also, although brackish water desalination needs less energy to overcome osmotic pressure, it usually requires more energy to draw the water from the well than it takes to pump seawater from the open ocean intake. Another factor is that the temperature of the brackish well water may be lower than the temperature of ocean water, giving seawater desalination an advantage in energy demand. In comparing brackish to seawater desalination, these major aspects should be evaluated: (1) Locations of seawater and brackish water plants, relative to the major consumers of the desalinated water, (2) Transportation (pumping and disposal) costs of the feed water and produced water, (3) Potential colocation of a seawater plant with a large industrial user (e.g., power plant) of the seawater for cooling or other purposes, (4) Produced quality of brackish water and seawater desalination in terms of major minerals and emerging contaminants, (5) Sustainability of the water source: capacity and depth of the brackish water wells, as well as the type of soil. (6) Technical and economic aspects of produced concentrate disposal, (7) Permitting process costs for brackish and seawater desalination, and (8) The economics of both brackish and seawater desalination treatment processes: capital costs, operational and maintenance (O&M) costs, lifetime water cost, and total water cost (TWC). This paper discusses the major evaluation criteria and considerations involved in properly comparing the economic and technical aspects of brackish and seawater desalination to determine the more favorable desalination technology for a given desalination project.

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