High salinity in sewage sludge can affect not only the operation of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) but also the quality of treated water generated, thereby limiting its downstream reuse. Using data on geochemical parameters, both for the central WWTP in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and literature values for potential regional saline water sources (e.g., shallow groundwater and regional Arabian Gulf seawater), a variety of chemical fingerprinting diagnostic ratios were calculated and plotted in order to determine the source of salinity in the municipal sewage. Data were compared with data from a regional WWTP that was not impacted by salinity. Monitoring data demonstrated persistently elevated levels of salinity in the municipal wastewater arriving at the central WWTP from the city. Dilution/concentration analysis using a conductivity vs. chloride plot showed both potential sources, i.e. Arabian Gulf seawater and coastal hypersaline groundwater, as feasible sources of wastewater salinization. Further diagnostic analysis using a Panno Plot indicated that coastal groundwater was the only likely source of salinization of municipal sewage. Additional confirmation of the identity of the source and the extent of mixing using different lines of evidence like stable isotope ratios is recommended for future study.

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