Life cycle assessment (LCA) of urban water infrastructure: Emerging approaches to balance objectives and inform comprehensive decision-making

Diana M. Byrne, Hannah A.C. Lohman, Sherri M. Cook, Gregory M. Peters, Jeremy S. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations

Abstract

Life cycle assessment (LCA) has been widely used to quantify environmental impacts associated with urban water infrastructure, including wastewater, drinking water, stormwater, and integrated urban water systems. While LCA is applicable for the estimation of global environmental impacts, decision-makers must balance these impacts with local, often regulated, environmental and public health objectives. To characterize the state of the art for the use of LCA for urban water infrastructure, a thorough literature review was conducted of papers that applied LCA to wastewater (173 papers), drinking water (44 papers), stormwater (17 papers), and integrated urban water (22 papers) systems. Analyses revealed current preferences for functional unit basis (e.g., volume for wastewater), system boundaries (e.g., focus on operation), and impact assessment methodology (CML, ReCiPe, and Eco-Indicator). Based on these findings, LCA methodological recommendations for urban water infrastructure are made, and emerging opportunities to balance objectives and inform comprehensive decision-making are discussed. Critical opportunities include the integration of spatial considerations (e.g., spatialized characterization factors), water quantity (e.g., water quantity indicators), public health (e.g., integration with risk assessment), economic and social assessments (e.g., life cycle costing and social LCA), along with prioritization of continuous stakeholder engagement. Finally, research and development needs specific to the use of LCA for urban water infrastructure (e.g., development of new indicators coupled with case studies) are prioritized. The Royal Society of Chemistry 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1014
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science: Water Research and Technology
Volume3
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (UIUC) for partial funding for the first and second authors, as well as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program for partial funding for the first author.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Life cycle assessment (LCA) of urban water infrastructure: Emerging approaches to balance objectives and inform comprehensive decision-making'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this