Brine disposal from reverse osmosis desalination plants in Oman and the United Arab Emirates

Mushtaque Ahmed, Walid H. Shayya*, David Hoey, Juma Al-Handaly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Citations (Scopus)


Reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plants are used for supplying potable water to small communities in inland areas of Oman as well as small to large communities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Most of these desalination plants use brackish groundwater as feedwater. The production of brine (also known as concentrate of wastewater) is an integral part of the operation od desalination plants. Ten small-scale desalination plants in the interior parts of Oman and eight RO plants in the coastal areas of the UAE were investigated with regard to their brine disposal methods. The capacity of the Omani plants varied from 50 m3/d to a maximum of 1000 m3/d. The salinity level of wastewater varied from 9.8 to 61.2 dS/m (1 dS/m = 640 mg/L). Various disposal methods were observed. These included lined evaporation ponds, ocean/beach disposal, and unlined small bores. The depth to the water table in the areas of the investigated desalination plants varies from 40 to 80m, while the average distance between feedwater intake and disposal areas was approximately 200 m. In the UAE, the capacities of the investigated plants varied between 950 to 15,000 m3/d. All the UAE plants dispose of their brine in the sea, although some of the plants dispose of their brine in nearby creeks that are linked to the sea. The chemical characteristics of the brine, feedwater, product water, and water from evaporation ponds (or bores) were determined. The presence of other chemicals including iron, copper, zinc, and cleaning agents (such as hydrochloric acid, sodium hexametaphosphate, and anti-scalants) is likely to pollute the groundwater, if the brine were to reach the underlying aquifers. Under certain conditions, brine from the desalination plants can have useful applications. Potentials for such applications are addressed in this paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 10 2001


  • Brine
  • Concentrate disposal
  • Desalination
  • Evaporation ponds
  • Oman
  • Reverse osmosis
  • UAE
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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