The diverse environmental burden of city-scale urban water systems

Lane, J. L., de Haas, D. W. and Lant, P. A. (2015) The diverse environmental burden of city-scale urban water systems. Water Research, 81 398-415. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.03.005


Author Lane, J. L.
de Haas, D. W.
Lant, P. A.
Title The diverse environmental burden of city-scale urban water systems
Journal name Water Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1879-2448
0043-1354
Publication date 2015-09-15
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2015.03.005
Volume 81
Start page 398
End page 415
Total pages 18
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher IWA Publishing
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Abstract Recent years have seen an increase in the use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to inform urban water systems research. The attraction of LCA is its capacity to identify trade-offs across a broad range of environmental issues and a broad range of technologies. However, without some additional perspective on the scale of the results, prioritisation of these concerns will remain difficult. LCA studies at the whole-of-system level are required to identify the diversity of life cycle environmental burdens associated with urban water systems, and the main contributors to these impacts. In this study, environmental impact profiles were generated for two city-scale urban water systems: one typical of many urban centres, with a high reliance on freshwater extraction and the majority of treated wastewater being discharged to the sea; and one that adopts a more diverse range of water supply and wastewater recycling technologies. The profiles were based on measured data for most system components, otherwise best available empirical data from the literature. Impact models were chosen considering the substantial methodological developments that have occurred in recent years. System operations, directly within the sphere of influence of water system managers, play the dominant role in all but one of the 14 life cycle impact categories considered. While energy use is the main cause of changes in the impact profiles when the alternative water supply technologies are included, it is not the only important driver of impacts associated with city-scale urban water systems. Also extremely important are process emissions related to wastewater treatment and dams (notably fugitive gases, wastewater discharges, and biosolids disposal). The results clearly indicate a diverse range of environmental impacts of relevance, extending beyond the traditional concerns of water use and nutrient discharge. Neither energy use, nor greenhouse gas footprints, are likely to be an adequate proxy for representing these additional concerns. However, methodological improvements will be required for certain LCA impact models to support future case study analysis, as will a comprehensive critique of the implications from selecting different impact models.
Keyword Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Urban water system
Ozone depletion
Greenhouse gas
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Chemical Engineering Publications
Official 2016 Collection
 
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