Aspects of environmental impacts of seawater desalination: Cyprus as a case study

D. Xevgenos* (Corresponding Author), M Marcou, Vasilis Louca, Eleni Avramidi, G Ioannou, M Argyrou, P Stavrou, M Mortou, Frithjof Kuepper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Cyprus relies on seawater desalination for a large part of its drinking water supply, with reverse osmosis providing more than 95% of the total desalination capacity in the country. Nevertheless, the environmental impacts of desalination for the Cypriot environment remain poorly understood. Using a combination of mining existing governmental and corporate survey data and reports, this study explores the scale of desalination in Cyprus, the impacts on the coastal marine environment and its overall carbon footprint. Surveys of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows show strongly reduced density of shoots and leaf surface area, respectively. Analysis of the available data relating to the overall production of desalinated water and energy consumption reveals that 68.7 million m3 of desali- nated water were produced in Cyprus in 2017, resulting in the release of 160 ktons of CO2 equivalent, representing around 2% of the total carbon emissions in Cyprus. The results are directly applicable for understanding the impacts of brine discharge on seagrass meadows, one of the most common types of Mediterranean seabed ecosystems and useful for providing guidance to decision makers as they are striving to achieve a zero-carbon economy. strategies for achieving greater sustainability in terms of reduced CO2 emissions and less brine discharge are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalDesalination and Water Treatment
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful to the European Commission for supporting the activities carried out in the framework of the H2020 European project ZERO BRINE (project under grant agreement No. 730390). The authors would equally like to thank the TOTAL Foundation (Project “Diversity of brown algae in the Eastern Mediterranean”) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council for their support to FCK (program Oceans 2025 – WP 4.5 and grants NE/D521522/1 and NE/J023094/1). This work also received support from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland pooling initiative. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions. The authors would also like to thank representatives from competent authorities in Cyprus providing data, and specifically Nicoletta Kythreotou from the Department of Environment, George Ashikalis from the Transmission System Operator, Dr. DinosPoullis and Lia Georgiou from the Water Development Department.


  • Cyprus
  • Brine
  • Carbon footprint
  • Desalination
  • Posidonia oceanica
  • Seagrass


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