Environmental Studies Program



Grace Kollars

Date of this Version



Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2022


Copyright 2022, Grace Kollars


Water scarcity is an issue all around the world because people have a lack of clean and available drinking water. One way this issue can be eased and people can have more access to water is implementing water desalination plants around the world. Since most of the water on earth cannot be drunk, there are ways to turn the over abundance of salty waters we have on this planet into fresh, drinkable water to ease the water insecurity. There are many methods out there that can be used for water desalination, most of them involving membrane technologies. The most efficient and highly used method is Reverse Osmosis (RO). Once the salt water travels through the membranes and extracts the salts there are two outputs involved, the clean and desalinated water and then the concentrated salty brine water being rejected. The brine has to go somewhere, but most of the options used tend to have some negative impact on our environment. Exploring the most efficient brine disposal method in terms of output, energy, and environmental impacts is important when looking into how feasible large-scale water desalination could be in the future. It is a nice idea for there to be large plants constantly turning saltwater into freshwater, but everything comes with a price. The building and operation of these plants use up a lot of energy, releasing CO2 emissions into the air and the brine output from the RO process can harm the health of marine ecosystems. This research will explore the in and outs of water desalination processes, economic and environmental components and brine disposal or usage in order to evaluate what has to be considered for large-scale implementation in our future to help provide freshwater to the people who do not have consistent access to any.