We really have a lot to learn about brackish groundwater aquifers. What happens to brackish aquifers as water is withdrawn? Can brackish aquifers be used in a sustainable manner? There are many sides to the issue – or many issues depending on one’s perspective.
- Engineering perspective
- How can we make brackish water desalination more robust?
- How can we integrate alternative energy sources into the desalination process?
- Can we optimize the mineral recovery process to be as reliable as food processing?
- What is the best design point – lowest capital cost or most reliable?
- Hydro-geologist perspective
- How is saline groundwater connected to fresh groundwater and surface water?
- How are these other water sources affected by extracting saline groundwater?
- How is the local hydrology affected by the addition of desalted groundwater when it is discharged as municipal wastewater?
- Will the quality of the saline groundwater change over time?
- Can we manage the concentrate sustainably?
- Legal perspective
- Who has rights to brackish water?
- Are those who desalt brackish groundwater responsible for the concentrate until it reaches the ocean?
- Are they responsible to ensure that it is mixed properly as it enters the ocean?
- Socio-economics perspective
- Is desalted brackish water more precious than fresh water because of the added cost?
- Should it be used to wash the car and water cattle?
- Is it for industry or only for drinking?
- If it is used for industry, should the industry pay the development cost?
- Should it be reused often or returned to the hydrologic cycle?
- Should the government support desalination projects in the desert or encourage migration to water rich areas.
Determining the water quality of any particular source of brackish water is the first step in planning for desalination. The USGS National Water Quality Assessment Data Warehouse maps a wide range of chemical constituents in well water for any region or state in the United States.