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The Economics of Wastewater Treatment Decentralization: A Techno-economic Evaluation

The existing wastewater treatment infrastructure has not adequately established an efficient and sustainable use of energy, water, and nutrients. A proposed scheme based on source separation and water-efficient use is compared to the current wastewater management paradigm (one largely based on activated sludge) using techno-economic terms. This paper explores the economic viability of adopting more sustainable management alternatives and expands the understanding of the economics of decentralization and source-separation. The feasibility of three different potential types of source-separation (with different levels of decentralization) are compared to the conventional centralized activated sludge process by using recognized economic assessment methodologies together with widely accepted modeling tools. The alternatives were evaluated for two common scenarios: new developments and retrofit due to the aging of existing infrastructures. The results prove that source-separated alternatives can be competitive options despite existing drawbacks (only when countable incomes are included), while the hybrid approach resulted in the least cost-effective solution. A detailed techno-economic evaluation of the costs of decentralization provides insight into the current constraints concerning the paradigm shift and the cost of existing technologic inertia. 

Additional Info

  • Year: 2018
  • Authors: Garrido-Baserba, M., Vinardell, S., Molinos-Senante, M., Rosso, D., Poch, M.
  • Reference: Environmental Science and Technology Volume 52, Issue 15, 7 August 2018, Pages 8965-8976

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