Regional Consultancy to Support MED POL Activities related to the Preparation of Treatment Technologies and Standards for Discharges from Desalination Plants (Level B)

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)


Result of Service

The ultimate result of this assignment is to enable the Contracting Parties to implement high environmental standards for the management of desalination activities through the development of common environmental standards on desalination and brine management including management of releases of pollutants from seawater desalination plants.

Work Location


Expected duration

The contract will be for the period of three (3) months spread over twelve (12) months.

Duties and Responsibilities

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the United Nations system’s designated entity for addressing environmental issues at the global and regional levels. Its mandate is to coordinate the development of environmental policy consensus by keeping the global environment under review and bringing emerging issues to the attention of governments and the international community for action. United Nation’s Environment Ecosystems Division works with international and national partners, providing technical assistance and advisory services for the implementation of environmental policy, and strengthening the environmental management capacity of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. This consultancy assignment is for the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) – Programme for the Assessment and Control of Marine Pollution in the Mediterranean (MED POL), Athens, Greece.

The GEF/UNEP MedProgramme (GEF ID 9607) represents the first GEF programmatic multi-focal area initiative in the Mediterranean Sea aiming to operationalize priority actions to reduce major transboundary environmental stresses in its coastal areas while strengthening climate resilience and water security and improving the health and livelihoods of coastal populations. The MedProgramme is implemented in ten beneficiary countries sharing the Mediterranean basin: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Montenegro, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. The MedProgramme has four child projects with different sub-components out of which MedProgramme Child Project (CP) 1.2 comprises of two distinct components targeting: (1) the preparation of mature investments targeting pollution reduction in coastal hotspots; and (2) regional harmonization of relevant standards.

In view of its commitments as stipulated in Decision IG.25/8 and in line with CP1.2 Outputs 2.1 and 2.2, the UNEP/MAP is developing in the current biennium 2022-2023, technical guidelines for wastewater treatment and sewage sludge management to enable the Contracting Parties to effectively fulfill their legally binding commitments. This includes guidance on disposal alternatives of sludge, use of sludge as a soil additive, and for energy production and incineration. The Secretariat is also developing pre-treatment standards for industries/sectors discharging to municipal sewerage systems in order to ensure that discharges of untreated industrial wastewater would not lead to serious malfunctioning of biological processes in urban wastewater treatment plants as well as quality of treated sludge.

Additionally, with regards to CP1.2, Output 2.3 aiming to develop regional standards on desalination, MED POL is further building on the Decision IG.23/13 adopted in COP 20, 17-20 December 2017 in Tirana, Albania; the “Updated Guidelines on the Management of Desalination Activities.” The Guidelines provide up-to-date guidance in identifying, assessing and controlling potential impacts of desalination on the marine and coastal environment; however, a comprehensive response to growing pressures from desalination requires further regional cooperation to identify best practices and develop performance criteria and standards for planning and operation of desalination plants. For this reason, MED POL is currently preparing additional guidance examining environmental issues in seawater desalination; adverse impacts of intakes and outfalls; brine treatment and pre-treatment technologies as well as processes towards minimum/zero liquid discharge and resource recovery; regulatory measures and permitting procedures in line with the requirements of Decision IG.25/5 “Amendments to Annexes I, II and IV to the Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol)” recently adopted in COP 22 (7-10 December 2021, Antalya, Turkey). The Amendments include updates on sectors of activity of Annex I.A including “water collection and supply”; updates on the categories of substances in Annex I.C including “brine” (from desalination) corresponding to those for which emission limit values are defined, as well as new criteria for Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) which are addressed in Annex IV of the LBS Protocol.
To this aim, UNEP/MAP requires the services of a regional expert to support MED POL to develop environmental standards on desalination, including but not limited to, Effluent Limit Values including BAT and BEP; brine treatment and pre-treatment technologies and propose regional regulatory measures based on regulations applied by the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention in the regions. To achieve this aim, the regional consultant is required to (i) conduct desk review on available desalination technologies in the Mediterranean, giving due consideration to the “State of play of Desalination in the Mediterranean” study which is under preparation by Plan Blue; (ii) identify waste treatment options, including BAT and BEP, iv) develop regional environmental standards on desalination including Effluent Limit Values; brine treatment and pre-treatment technologies, (v) propose regional regulatory measures (for instance, permitting conditions, compliance and enforcement), taking into consideration regulations applied by the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention in region.
The consultant is expected to perform the following tasks:

  1. Prepare a detailed work plan for performance of the following tasks accompanied with a timetable for completion;
  2. Review the Updated Guidelines on the management of desalination activities (IG:23.13, 2017) to identify new and additional elements required to enhance circular economy principles, resource and energy efficiency as well as environmental standards in particular on
    A- Treatment and pre-treatment of seawater desalination technologies and management of brine;
    B- Technical aspects of brine disposal, in relation to the amended LBS Protocol and application in Contracting Parties;
    C- Environmental Monitoring of discharges;
  3. Undertake a desk study to:
    A- Assess the current situation of the desalination capacity in the Contracting Parties of Barcelona Convention in the Mediterranean, mapping, inter alia,: (i) capacity of desalination plants, (ii) construction/operation dates and locations, (iii) desalination technologies including the processes used i.e., thermal or/and membrane processes;
    B- Further evaluate the outcomes of the “State of play of Desalination in the Mediterranean” prepared in accordance with Programme of Work 1.2.3(a) by Plan Blue (if published)
    C- Evaluate recent relevant developments in modern wastewater(brine) treatment and pre-treatment and water desalination technologies offering innovative solutions to environmental impacts of desalination, including but not limited to, various modes of distillation, micro, ultra and nano-filtration; reverse osmotic processes as well as Minimum/Zero Liquid discharge (MLD and ZLD) and water recovery;
    D- Identify regulatory national control measures including, among others; (i) applied Effluent Limit Values (ii) available regulatory and permitting procedures as well as application of Best Available Techniques and implementation of Best Environmental Practice;
  4. Prepare an annotated content for “Desalination technologies and Environmental Standards” (hereinafter as Standards for Desalination) with the following chapters by taking into account the task 2 and 3:
    (a) Current situation in Mediterranean and the regional capacity of desalination;
    (b) Environmental issues in seawater desalination: Adverse of intakes and outfalls
    (c) Brine treatment and pre-treatment technologies and processes towards minimum/zero liquid discharge and resource recovery: (State of the art and techno-assessment: Membrane-based and thermal based brine treatment technologies etc.,)
    (d) Regulatory measures and permitting procedures in line with: Land Based Sources of Pollution Protocol;
    (e) Conclusions and recommendation for desalination plants wastewater treatment discharges (ELV) and technologies and techniques (BAT and BEP);
  5. Prepare the “first draft” of “Standards for Desalination” in the Mediterranean expanding Guidelines on Desalination Activities (2017) and submit for MEDPOL’s comments and feedback. Amend accordingly
  6. Provide technical support to MED POL during the “Meeting to review regional standards for urban wastewater and sewage sludge and showcase best practices; regional standards on desalination; and standards on pre-treatment of industrial effluents for industries discharging into urban wastewater collection systems” to be held in October 2022 (tbc) and First Steering Committee of CP.1.2 (tbc) in terms of technical inputs to substantiate the scope of the proposed measures. Take note of all comments/inputs received from the Contracting Parties and prepare the “second draft” of the “Standards for Desalination”
  7. Provide substantive support during the MED POL Focal Points Meeting tentatively planned in late May 2023;
  8. Based on the received inputs/comments received during the aforementioned meeting, prepare the “Final Draft” of Standards for Desalination in the Mediterranean for the consideration of the MED POL Focal Points Meeting;
  9. Prepare and submit the final report of deliverables for the consultancy with details on tasks and activities undertaken to achieve the required deliverables

Qualifications/special skills

Skills: • Excellent writing skills in English are required
Academic Qualifications: • Advanced university degree in environmental engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, or related field is required;
Experience: • A minimum of 5 years of relevant professional working experience in desalination technology and seawater desalination plants in the Mediterranean is required;
• Knowledge of related technologies such as, but not limited to, thermal treatment, reverse osmosis etc is required.
• Working experience in setting environmental standards, as well as legal measures for of brine management is an asset;
• Experience with/knowledge of the UNEP/MAP and MedPol is an asset;
Language: • Fluency in English (written and spoken) is required;
• Fluency in French (written and spoken) is an asset.

No Fee






IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development