Depending upon the desired product, either the solvent or solute stream of reverse osmosis will be waste. For food concentration applications, the concentrated solute stream is the product and the solvent stream is waste. For water treatment applications, the solvent stream is purified water and the solute stream is concentrated waste. The solvent waste stream from food processing may be used as reclaimed water, but there may be fewer options for disposal of a concentrated waste solute stream. Ships may use marine dumping and coastal desalination plants typically use marine outfalls. Landlocked reverse osmosis plants may require evaporation ponds or injection wells to avoid polluting groundwater or surface runoff.
As science and technology continue to improve, more efficient systems in purifying water are invented, established, and standardized. In the United States, laws are passed to ensure that businesses and corporations who manufacture and distribute water adhere to strict purification standards. Local municipalities are also held to strict standards in order to ensure that communities are given clean water consistently.
The EPA states that there are four main types of contaminants to be found in water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a federal law that protects public drinking water supplies, defines "contaminant" as anything other than water molecules. We can reasonably expect most drinking water to contain some level of contaminant, especially since minerals such as calcium and magnesium fall into that category. The question is, which of these contaminants are harmful and how much of it is entering my system?
STAT: The number of annual deaths from ESD in the U.S. are unknown, since they are counted among all drownings. But anecdotal evidence shows that ESD is widespread. ESD prevention groups have successfully urged some states to enact safety standards, including the installation of ground-fault circuit interrupters and a central shutoff for a dock's electrical system.