Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2013\Feasibility Study on Model Development to Estimate and Minimize Greenhouse Gas Concentrations and Carbon Footprint of Water Reuse and Desalination Facilities

Feasibility Study on Model Development to Estimate and Minimize Greenhouse Gas Concentrations and Carbon Footprint of Water Reuse and Desalination Facilities

Project: 10-12
Year Released: 2013
Type: White Paper

Program: Principal
Funding Partner: California State Water Resources Control Board
Total Investment: $38,983.76 (Cash: $24,911.56, In-Kind: $14,072.20)

Principal Investigators: David R. Hokanson, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, Trussell Technologies, Inc., James R. Mihelcic, Ph.D., BCEEM, University of South Florida, and Qiong Zhang, Ph.D., University of South Florida


Although use of alternative water supplies is beneficial, there are concerns that energy-intensive water reuse and desalination treatment processes have larger environmental footprints than conventional water and wastewater treatment. For example, utilization of these energy-intensive treatment processes is associated with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other atmospheric pollutants from electricity generation.

Goals and Objectives

The project gathers information that will help utilities estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon footprint of existing and future water reuse and desalination facilities.

Research Approach

The approach to the research was to:

  • Review available emission models and documented emissions related to water reuse and desalination.
  • Summarize previously documented GHG and CO2 emissions associated with water reuse and desalination with respect to location, scenario capacity, technology, and energy mix.
  • Summarize available emission models in terms of system boundary, data sources, required model inputs, method for calculations, model outputs, model limitations, applicability to water reuse and desalination facilities, availability, and implementability.
  • Survey utilities and identify knowledge gaps that prevent creation of a robust and accurate model for estimating GHG emissions of water reuse or desalination facility.

Findings and Conclusions

This report critically interprets existing literature that will assist utilities employing water reuse and desalination in estimating GHG emissions and carbon footprint while also recommending accessible models to provide estimations. GHG estimation models can aid water reuse and desalination utilities in estimating (1) direct emissions from unit processes, (2) indirect emissions associated with energy consumption, and (3) indirect emissions associated with material consumption (i.e., indirect energy consumption).

The results obtained from this study provide water utilities and other interested parties with a list of currently available tools or models to assess the carbon footprint for water reuse and desalination facilities and provide utilities with a recommendation for a tool that utilities are able to readily use that may support the development of a more accurate and applicable carbon footprint model for water reuse and desalination.

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