Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Bernhard Riegl, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alexander Soloviev, Ph.D.


Anthropogenic climate change influences our oceans on a global scale and has brought about increased salinity levels in large areas of our oceans such as the North Atlantic (Dunbar 2009). Concentrations of large scale desalination plants around small bodies of water add to this pattern and have shown even larger increases in salinity due to desalination brine discharge (Purnama et al., 2005). Salinity profile data over time should show similar increases in salinity in the Mediterranean Sea due to climate change and localized data should show increased salinity due to brine discharge. This study aims to pinpoint the extent of this increase in salinity from desalination brine and to determine if these changes are detectable on a large scale over a long period of time in an increasing pattern throughout the basin.

This pattern should then display that the increase of salinity in the basin is accelerating due to brine discharge and tipping the already natural salinity cycle of the Mediterranean Sea. Based on the acceleration of this change and future planned desalination plants, it can be determined if the salinity increase is at a sustainable level. Desalination brine by itself is very unlikely to have much impact on such a large body of water as the Mediterranean Sea, however, detecting a slight change from brine discharge and then combining this change with already increasing salinities due to anthropogenic climate change could give us a glimpse into a future with larger scale desalination processes and the vital need to utilize sustainable technology as opposed to the environmentally detrimental present day technology. If even a slight change in overall salinity is detected, this data could be used to interpolate future salinity levels with increased desalination plant development in the future.

Increased salinity levels in areas of close proximity to brine discharge are easily detectable with the right equipment and would directly correlate desalination technology with unsustainable increases in salinity. The challenge remains to detect changes on a larger scale.

All types of modern technology should strive to be net-zero emission and net-zero impact on the environment. Desalination technology is no exception. The results of this study can be used to prove that modern desalination technology is unsustainable and harmful to the environment. Rather than eliminating the process, the only viable solution is to improve and upgrade the technology to have no negative impact on the environment.