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Charting the water utility of the future

Pilot utilities worldwide are reportedly significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions through targeted service performance improvements

Roadmap to the low carbon utilities of the future
Roadmap to the low carbon utilities of the future

A roadmap for the decarbonisation of water utilities has been presented at the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition 2018 in a bid to inspire a new generation of urban leaders and decision-makers to transit towards carbon-neutral urban water and wastewater services.


According to IWA, water utilities are among the first vital urban infrastructure affected by climate change.


Water scarcity, flooding, and deteriorated water quality directly hit utilities’ operations with “fatal effects” on provision of water and sanitation services.

While being concerned about climate change effects, the utilities themselves contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions, and a mindset shift to low-carbon solutions is urgently needed, noted the IWA.


Practical approach to low carbon


The Roadmap to a Low-Carbon Urban Water Utility report, a legacy from the Water and Wastewater Companies for Climate Mitigation (WaCCliM) project, claims to be the first guide of its kind to demonstrate a practical approach towards low-carbon, holistic and sustainable urban water management.


“This roadmap supports water utility managers around the world in their efforts to improve performance and achieve carbon neutrality of their utilities while raising the awareness of policy-makers to the substantial contributions the water sector can provide in meeting greenhouse-gas reduction targets,” said Thomas Stratenwerth, head of division, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany.


The report showcases the diverse approaches adopted by water utilities. Some pilot utilities were able to plan and implement measures towards energy efficiency and increasing coverage, while others made progress towards higher awareness and policy influencing.


It also draws on an approach that has been successfully piloted in utilities in Jordan, Mexico, Peru, and Thailand that participate in the WaCCliM project, reportedly with drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“This roadmap supports water utility managers around the world in their efforts to improve performance and achieve carbon neutrality of their utilities"

In San Francisco del Rincón, Mexico, the implemented measures have allowed utilities there to lower the operational costs and improve productivity. The immediate impact of increasing wastewater treatment coverage is a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide per year and comparable to annual emissions of 650 people living in Mexico.


In Thailand, the Chiang Mai utility has achieved initial greenhouse gas reductions through sewer repairs and pumping cycle optimisation.


The Jordanian Miyahuna-Madaba Company, with the help of the University of Jordan, conducted studies to determine its overall operational baseline greenhouse gas emissions throughout the urban water cycle. This basic assessment was completed using a free software tool from the project, to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions from urban water services.


The WaCCliM project and the roadmap has “provided solid evidence of how utilities can become leaders in climate mitigation and adaptation”, added Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director, IWA. “We hope that many other utilities will be early adopters of the WaCCliM roadmap, as it will steer and inspire utilities worldwide towards a climate-resilient future.”

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