GLRPPR Sector Resource: A perspective on cost-effectiveness of greenhouse gas reduction solutions in water distribution systems
A perspective on cost-effectiveness of greenhouse gas reduction solutions in water distribution systems
Water distribution systems (WDSs) face great challenges as aging infrastructures require significant investments in rehabilitation, replacement, and expansion. Reducing environmental impacts as WDSs develop is essential for utility managers and policy makers. This study quantifies the existing greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of common WDS elements using life-cycle assessment (LCA) while identifying the greatest opportunities for emission reduction. This study addresses oversights of the related literature, which fails to capture several WDS elements and to provide detailed life-cycle inventories. The life-cycle inventory results for a US case study utility reveal that 81% of GHGs are from pumping energy, where a large portion of these emissions are a result of distribution leaks, which account for 270 billion l of water losses daily in the United States. Pipe replacement scheduling is analyzed from an environmental perspective where, through incorporating leak impacts, a tool reveals that optimal replacement is no more than 20 years, which is in contrast to the US average of 200 years. Carbon abatement costs (CACs) are calculated for different leak reduction scenarios for the case utility that range from $130 to $35/t CO2(eq). Including life-cycle modeling in evaluating pipe materials identified polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and cement-lined ductile iron (DICL) as the Pareto efficient options, however; utilizing PVC presents human health risks. The model developed for the case utility is applied to California and Texas to determine the CACs of reducing leaks to 5% of distributed water. For California, annual GHG savings from reducing leaks alone (3.4 million tons of CO2(eq)) are found to exceed California Air Resources Board's estimate for energy efficiency improvements in the state's water infrastructure.
Note that the article is open access.
Environmental Research Letters, 9 024017.
Date of Publication:
February 26, 2014
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