Environmental and Social Assessment for Expansion of Deir Al-Balah Seawater Desalination Plant
Worldwide, in order to overcome the gap in conventional water resources, desalination of seawater through reverse osmosis is considered the most promising technique to provide freshwater for regions suffering from water shortages. In order to alleviate the problem of freshwater deficit in Gaza Strip, it is intended to expand the existing seawater desalination plant of Deir Al-Balah by lifting its desalinating capacity to 6,000 m3/day. The expanding of Deir Al-Balah seawater desalination plant could have potential environmental and social impacts. This study employs numerical modelling approach to assessthe environmental impact (EIA) of the discharged brine through an alternating disposal system into sea, the simulation result shows that the applied disposal system is an efficient mitigation measure todecrease the potential negative environmental impacts of brine disposal where the excess salinity at the edge of the mixing zone in the worst dilution pattern was 7.67% (2930 mg/l) above the salinity of seawater and this result meets the specified limit (less than 10%) by UNEP regulations. Furthermore, questionnaires were distributed to 200 inhabitants live near the desalination plant to assess the social impacts of the desalination plant on the society, the results of social impact assessment (SIA) refer that the expansion of the desalination capacity could decrease the rate of unemployment and improve the status of public health where providing reliable freshwater decreases the spread of waterborne diseases. The survey of SIA demonstrates that most of the interviewed residents (89%) get domestic water from the municipality, most of them (86%) describe the quality of water as very bad, the quality of received water is not satisfied according to 58% of surveyed people. Hence, most of the people (70%) support the expanding of Deir Al-Balah seawater desalination plant to enhance the quality and quantity of water services in the region and also 55% of the people are willing to pay the fees of supplied water, however the social results show that significance percentage of 42% are not willing to pay due to the bad economic situations, however it is expected to decrease this percentage in the case of a well-structured tariff system is exploited to guarantee fair distribution of freshwater.
Keywords - Desalination, ESIA, Environmental, Social, Brine, Gaza Strip, Impact.