Discharge of Polyphosphonate-Based Antiscalants via Desalination Brine: Impact on Seabed Nutrient Flux and Microbial Activity

Guy Sisma-Ventura, Natalia Belkin, Maxim Rubin-Blum, Yitzhak Jacobson, Hagar Hauzer, Edo Bar-Zeev, Eyal Rahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Desalination brine is a hypersaline byproduct that contains various operational chemicals such as polyphosphonate-based antiscalants. Brine often sinks and flows over the seabed by density currents; therefore, it may affect sediment-water nutrient fluxes and thus microbial activity. We quantified these parameters in brine plumes around two large-scale desalination facilities located in the P-limited Southeastern Mediterranean Sea. The benthic nutrient fluxes and microbial activity were determined using ex-situ core benthocosms, to which we added brine from the dispersion area in excess salinities of ∼3% and 5% above natural levels. A higher influx of dissolved organic phosphorus (∼6-fold) and an efflux of dissolved organic carbon (∼1.7-fold) were measured in the brine-amended cores relative to the controls. This was accompanied by increased oxygen consumption (15%) and increased microbial activity (∼1.5-6.5-fold). Field observations support the results from experimental manipulations, yielding ∼4.5-fold higher microbial activity rates around the brine plume compared to uninfluenced locations. Our results imply that desalination brine can alter sedimentary processes affecting benthic nutrients inventories. Moreover, we show that brine acts as a vector of anthropogenic P, stimulating microbial activity in the sediment-water interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13142-13151
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 20 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • desalination
  • environmental impacts
  • microbial activity
  • nutrient fluxes
  • polyphosphonates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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