Can water utilities make net-zero water possible given rising demands? | Without LimitsTo mitigate climate change, water operators are looking f...Can water utilities make net-zero water possible given rising demands? | Without Limits
To mitigate climate change, water operators are looking for innovative measures to produce more water with less carbon emissions. At the recent Singapore International Water Week, Scott Dunn, Vice President, Strategy & Growth, Asia, led a discussion on the potential of the water industry to contribute in decarbonization efforts. In this article, he shares the need for water utilities, especially those in Asia, to establish their net-zero ambitions and what changes they can make to get them started.
Water utilities account for about two percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to the world’s shipping industry. While the need to decarbonize has never been more crucial, at the same time the world’s growing population needs more water – and not just for drinking. For sanitation, cleanliness, food production and the removal of waste products, the demands on supply are ever growing.
A small number of leading global water utilities and stakeholders have set net-zero and climate neutrality targets to mitigate their emissions, but many are still in the process of working out how to achieve these. Other operators have yet to commit to formal targets – and many of these are in Asia.
Emissions from water
The increased demand on water supply is being accelerated in Asia as more people move to urban areas, becoming dependent on industrial supplies of food and sanitation. It is estimated that by 2050, the 9.7 billion people on our planet will need 45 percent more food and 55 percent more water.
However, the delivery and treatment of water and wastewater require a great deal of energy, resulting in large amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as fugitive and flared emission of CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide). The key processes – such as treating water to a potable standard, treating wastewater to a standard appropriate for discharge, pumping water around the supply network and pumping wastewater around the sewer network – contribute direct emissions such as the release of CH4 and N2O from the treatment process, as well as indirect emissions from its grid electricity use.
In order to meet growing water demands, the upgrading of existing water networks and creation of new facilities will be needed.