Intakes for Seawater Desalination Facilities

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) encourages best engineering practices for location, design, and construction of seawater intake systems for desalination facilities to both maximize the project objectives and minimize adverse environmental impacts. AWWA encourages the use of environmentally responsible intake systems, whether subterranean or open ocean intakes, for source water supply to seawater desalination facilities. 

Where open ocean intakes are utilized, measures should be taken to minimize or mitigate the impacts of impingement and entrainment on marine life, including consideration of distance from shore, depth of intake, and the evaluation of passive intake systems. Subterranean intakes, whether constructed as wells, infiltration galleries, or other engineered subterranean intakes, should also address the minimization of environmental impacts, including, as applicable, seafloor and benthic impacts, influences on local groundwater resources, and other effects on beaches and coastal sand dunes. 


AWWA encourages continued research on the impacts of seawater intakes on marine life and the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce these impacts. AWWA also encourages governmental agencies to work closely with water utilities to collectively develop clear regulatory and permitting guidelines, with appropriate stakeholder engagement, to allow best engineered projects to proceed in a timely manner.

Adopted by the Board of Directors January 20, 2013. Revised by the Board of Directors June 20, 2016.