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SANOCEAN-South Africa - Norway co-operation on ocean research including blue economy, climate change, the env

Impact of land-based activities on the coastal environment (Coast-LaB): Seawater desalination and wastewater discharge

Alternative title: Effekter av landbaserte aktiviteter på kystmiljøet (Coast-LaB): Sjøvannavsalting og utslipp av avløpsvann

Awarded: NOK 1.9 mill.

The Coast-LaB project is part of SANOCEAN, a Norway-South Africa bilateral research program on Ocean sustainability. The project is studying the impact of wastewater and seawater desalination brine discharge on the South African coastal waters with a focus on the coast of Durban. The main project objective is to assess, how discharges of brine and chemicals from seawater desalination, nutrients, marine litter, pharmaceuticals from treated and untreated wastewater, affect the coastal marine environment. So far; a female student from a historically disadvantaged institution successfully defended her MSc thesis on levels of pharmaceuticals in Durban coastal waters impacted by wastewater discharge. A second female MSc. student, studying the sources of microplastic to the coastal environment will graduate at the end of this year (2021). That student had a six-month research visit at NIVA in 2019. Similarly, NIVA will will host a second Ph.D. student researcher this fall. During her six-month research visit at NIVA, she will learn how to conduct ecotoxicological studies on marine biota exposed to seawater desalination plant discharge. And finally, another Coast-LaB-affiliated Ph.D. student just published a paper in Chemosphere journal on measuring pharmaceuticals in wastewater-impacted coastal waters. Her presentation of that work earned her a prize at the 2021 Chromatography Postgraduate Student Workshop organized by the Chromatography Division of the South African Chemical Institute (ChromSA).


The broader aim of the Coast-LaB project is to study the impact of the discharge of brine resulting from the desalination of seawater to generate potable water and wastewater discharges to the marine environment, to better protect and manage the marine and coastal environment and to protect human health (Figure 1). Coast-LaB is in line with UNEP`s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (LBA). Coast-LaB`s study activities will focus on the impact of LBA in two coastal, freshwater-stressed mega metropolises: Durban and Cape Town. The project will extend on the work of WIO-LaB; a UNEP and Norwegian funded project on the impacts of LBA in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). The project`s objectives are to:(i) assess, via measurements of selected pollutant concentrations in water, biota and sediment, how discharges of wastewater affect the marine ecosystem, ii) study the impact of seawater desalination activities; brine disposal and impingement and entrainment of marine organisms during seawater intake, and iii) provide data and information that will help strengthen the regional legal basis for preventing land-based sources of pollution that will help v) develop regional capacity and strengthen institutions for sustainable coastal development. In toto, Coast-LaB addresses sustainable development goals (SDGs) 6 and 14; on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6) and sustainable use of the oceans respectively (SDG14).

Funding scheme:

SANOCEAN-South Africa - Norway co-operation on ocean research including blue economy, climate change, the env