Techno-economic analysis of sustainability and externality costs of water desalination production

Layla Saleh, Toufic Mezher

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Scopus citations


    Increase in economic activities and population growth have resulted in the high energy and water demands which made them top priorities for many countries around the globe. This led to exploring new sources for producing fresh water including desalination. Estimating the true cost of desalinated water production should include both internal and externality costs. The objective of this paper is to calculate the externality costs that are associated with desalination water production in United Arab Emirates. The study examines and quantifies the environmental, economical and social costs of thermal desalination plants for both Multi-Effect Distillation (MED) and Multi-Stage Flash (MSF) technologies using Analytical Hierarchy Process model. For this purpose, various desalination sustainability criteria that are considered include CO2 emissions, brine discharge, chemicals pollutants, land area, employment rate, desalinated water quality and water availability. Results show that the true cost of desalinated water production almost doubled when the externality costs are included. Results indicated that the externality costs for the MED technology ranged between 0.297$/m3 and 0.702 $/m3 leading to an average increase of 65.8%. For the MSF technology, the externality costs ranged between 0.548$/m3 and 1.174$/m3 leading to an average increase is of 81.9%.

    Original languageBritish English
    Article number111465
    JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
    StatePublished - Oct 2021


    • Analytical hierarchical process (AHP)
    • Environmental cost
    • Externality costs of desalination
    • MED
    • MSF
    • Social carbon cost
    • Social cost
    • Techno-economic cost
    • True costs of desalination
    • Water desalination
    • Water-energy nexus


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