Water Nexus: Comprehensive Desalination

Water scarcity is a growing concern across the world and is exacerbated by mismatched supply and demand. While the majority of available fresh water is considered inaccessible, accessible fresh water is becoming contaminated as a result of over withdrawal, pollution, and salinization. Salinization specifically has become a common issue due to salt water intrusion and saline waste water reentering the system. Desalination has become a common method for turning this unusable saline water into useable water. Desalinization, however, is also known to be costly and energy intensive. To address this, research in desalination has focused on either improving existing or developing new technologies. More recently, the focus on technology combinations have been investigated. These investigations, however, are primarily focused on specific technology pairings.

Technological challenge 1: Expansion of treatment train modelling

The Desalination Evaluation, Screening, And Learning for Treatment-trains (DESALT) model was developed as part of the Water Nexus. The focus of this model is the testing and comparison of treatment trains (Figure 1) as an alternative approach to furthering desalination research and promoting the use of saline water.


Currently, DESALT evaluates treatment trains in series, however, there is the opportunity to expand the model to account for recirculation or feed water alterations. Research on incorporating this requires Python modelling skills and familiarity with treatment technologies.

Technological challenge 2: Brine Management

While desalination is effective at providing desirable water, it also produces heavily concentrated brine. Brine is most commonly disposed of in either seas / oceans or in landfills. The effects of this brine on the environment are not always known and the alternatives to disposal are not always considered. The aim of this research is to expand upon the existing foundation of brine management knowledge, incorporate information on existing technologies and approaches, and develop a multicriteria assessment framework.

Potential MSc research questions:

  • What methods are required to incorporate recirculation into the DESALT model?
  • What approach can best promote environmentally compatible brine in the desalination process?


  • Literature review
  • Calculations through Excel
  • Programming via Python