Water footprint assessment in wastewater treatment plants

Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) play an important role within the urban water cycle in protecting receiving waters from untreated discharges. However, WWTPs processes also affect the environment. Life cycle assessment has traditionally been used to assess the impact of direct discharges from WWTPs and indirect emissions related to energy or chemical production. The water footprint (WF) can provide complementary information to evaluate the impact of a WWTP regarding the use of freshwater. This paper presents the adoption of the Water Footprint Assessment methodology to assess the consumption of water resources in WWTPs by considering both blue and grey WFs. The usefulness of the proposed methodology in assessing the environmental impact and the benefits from WWTP discharge to a river is illustrated with an actual WWTP, which treats 4,000 m3·d−1, using three scenarios: no treatment, secondary treatment and phosphorus removal. A reduction of the water footprint by 51.5% and 72.4% was achieved using secondary treatment and chemical phosphorus removal, respectively, to fulfill the legal limits. These results indicate that when treating wastewater, there is a large decrease in the grey water footprint compared with the no-treatment scenario; however, there is a small blue water footprint.

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Laboratory of Chemical and Enviromental Engineering

Institut de Medi Ambient
Universitat de Girona
Campus Montilivi
17003 Girona

Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la UdG
Edifici Jaume Casademont, Porta B
Pic de Peguera, 15
17003 Girona
Tel. +34 972 41 98 59




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