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Calculating Your Utility's Carbon Footprints and It's Impact on Your Budget

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Today's economic environment requires that Utility management review costs and look for savings in both direct and indirect costs. Increased awareness and identification of the relationships between climate change, green house gas emissions and carbon foot printing has been reflected in the developing regulatory environment, public and media awareness, utility policies and the enterprise management and operation of water systems. The primary focus on protecting the public health through more stringent standards and the need to add reliability and capacity to growing water systems because of population and economic growth may also be causing adverse effects on other parts of the environment. More energy intensive water treatment technologies, pumping of water from remote locations and construction of major new facilities could significantly increase the carbon footprint of drinking water systems. Consideration of life cycle cost accounting in the United States as well as potential new directives from the US Environmental Protection Agency or other regulatory bodies indicate that similar approaches could be imbedded within local project development approaches in the near future.

Constructing and operating municipal water systems requires energy for supply, purification, distribution and treatment of waste streams. Nationwide, about 4 percent of U.S power production is used for water supply and treatment. In California, water-related energy uses consume 19% of the state's electricity and 32% of the natural gas production. Energy consumption for water and wastewater treatment can range form 30% to 60% of a city's total energy costs and is often the second highest cost (after labor) in operating a water and wastewater utility. Traditional planning of water and energy systems in isolation is changing as utilities respond to the scarcity of fresh water, the rising energy costs and the limitations that competition for these resources will have on responding to population and economic growth pressures as well as the emerging commitment to environmental protection and enhancement.

Assessing the carbon footprint of water and wastewater systems is one measure that can be taken by utilities to reduce the energy intensity of their operations and to identify and direct more sustainable and cost-effective practices. Preparing a carbon foot print assessment involves the definition and cataloguing of all carbon emissions and sinks within a defined boundary over a certain time frame. That information can then be used to develop strategies and responses to manage or mitigate the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the project and evaluate the economic impact on overall utility operation.

This paper will calculate a representative utility carbon footprint, offer various strategies to manage the utility's carbon footprint, and the resultant impact on utility budgets and operations.

Keywords: Budget impacts of environmental legislation; Carbon footprint; GHG; Greenhouse Gas

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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