The energy demand associated with provision of sufficient and safe water is a real issue for water managers. Water and wastewater treatment and transport can account for up to 44% of a city’s municipal energy cost. Some have also reported that with population growth, urbanization, and stricter water quality standards, the energy associated with water and wastewater management may increase by an additional 20% by 2023.
The estimated carbon footprint associated with RO desalination ranges from 0.4 to 6.7 kg CO2eq/m3 (of water produced), whereas water reuse systems range from 0.1 to 2.4 kg CO2eq/m3. Ranges are primarily because of several study differences: geographical location, technology, life cycle stages considered, and estimation methodologies. For example, location not only impacts the quality of a source but also the distance to transport reclaimed water. Furthermore, regional energy grids differ in their carbon intensity.
RO technologies have lower CO2 emissions than thermal desalination technologies and the carbon footprint of seawater RO desalination (0.4–6.7 kg CO2eq/m3) was generally greater than brackish water RO desalination (0.4–2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) and water reuse systems (0.1–2.4 kg CO2eq/m3). Brackish water desalination also yielded a lower carbon footprint (0.4-2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) compared to seawater desalination (0.4-6.7 kg CO2eq/m3). Furthermore, the carbon footprint of RO systems with membrane pretreatment (e.g. ultrafiltration) (0.4-4.0 kg CO2eq/m3) is generally higher than RO systems with conventional pretreatment (e.g. granular media filtration) (2.3-2.5 kg CO2eq/m3) for seawater desalination.
Our study identified and critically reviewed 16 tools that can estimate carbon emissions from water reuse and desalination facilities. We compared the simplest tool that requires minimal data inputs (e.g. electricity consumption, electricity mix) to a more sophisticated tool that had greater input requirements (e.g. material production, chemical usage, fuel usage, electricity consumption, electricity mix). We then applied both tools to estimating the carbon footprint of a 26.1 MGD facility used for: 1) seawater desalination, 2) brackish groundwater desalination, and 3) water reuse. Results showed the estimated carbon footprint from the simpler tool accounted for 55–58% of the more data-intensive estimation tool. This difference demonstrates the simpler tool underestimates life cycle impacts that are included in the more comprehensive tool.
The paper is available here:
Learn more about the research and demonstrations related to water and wastewater management:&
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This blog post was originally published on IWA Water Wiki on May 15, 2015.
For those of you who are in the Tampa Bay area, we would like to invite you to join us to welcome Dr. Warren Washington of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to the College of Marine Science, on Friday, November 20th. Dr. Washington is an internationally recognized atmospheric scientist, a former chair of the National Science Board, and chair of the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Science. In 2010, Dr. Washington,, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest science award for his lifetime contributions to global climate change research and his service in support of a diverse STEM workforce.
Dr. Washington’s Research Seminar
“My Journey as a Climate Modeler and How the Earth’s Climate is Likely to Change”
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
USF College of Marine Science, MSL Conference Room, 1st floor
Dr. Warren Washington is a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He holds a B.S. in Physics and M.S. in Meteorology from Oregon State University, and Ph.D. in Meteorology from Penn State University. Dr. Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. These models, use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand climate change. Washington worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models now include components that depict surface hydrology and vegetation as well as the atmosphere, oceans, and sea ice.
He has more than 150 publications and an autobiography, Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents. An Introduction to Three‐Dimensional Climate Modeling, written by Washington and Claire Parkinson in 1986 and updated in 2005, is a standard reference in the field. Washington has engaged in research for over 50 years, and has given advice, testimony, and lectures on global climate change. Dr. Washington is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is past president of the American Meteorological Society.
As the second African‐American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers from many backgrounds. He has mentored dozens of graduate students and undergraduates. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest science award “for his development and use of global climate models to understand climate and explain the role of human activities and natural processes in the Earth’s climate system and for his work to support a diverse science and engineering workforce.”
Sargassum is a brown macroalgae that tends to aggregate into large mats and are commonly found throughout the template and tropical oceans. It provides habitats, food, refuge and breeding sites for many commercially important marine fish such as Mahi Mahi, as well as other marine animals such as sea turtles, birds, and crabs. A fun fact is that some of these animals can live their entire lives within these floating environments. Regionally, these algal mats are found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Sargasso Sea, and the Caribbean. They can reach the beaches of the northern coast of South America, the Caribbean coasts of Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean.
What are the underlying issues with Sargassum?
During the last ~10 years, especially in 2011 and 2015, unprecedented amounts of Sargassum have been observed in the Caribbean Sea. Generally associated with the “Sargasso sea” located in the North Atlantic (Gower et al. 2006; Hu et al. 2015), recent studies indicate that these algae have become concentrated in the tropical Atlantic Ocean off South America (Gower et al. 2013). Sargassum can tolerate a wide range of water temperature, salinity, and pH conditions making it easy for them to reach coastal areas. They reproduce asexually which might be one of the reasons of its high concentrations. But, exactly why have we seen such vast amount of these mats in the Caribbean is currently a topic of much scientific research.
What are the impacts of large Sargassum mats on our coasts?
Decomposition of Sargassum creates a foul smell. This is a nuisance to people and animals. Regional and local tourism dependent economies have been heavily impacted by these large decomposition events when Sargassum reaches and piles up on beaches. In Jamaica the government has allocated up to USD 5 million to remove Sargassum from their beaches. The Barbados Sea turtle Project has documented increased sea turtle deaths due to being trapped in large concentrations of Sargassum. Barbadian fisherfolk on the other hand have reported increased quantities of fish catch due to the sargassum. Other coastal animals like corals seem to be impacted by shading due to Sargassum (Vega-Rodriguez, M et al. in progress; USF-College of Marine Science).
How can we study these Sargassum events?
Due to their critical ecological role and the economic impacts of Sargassum strandings additional research is needed to fully understand the distribution of this alga in our oceans. Scientists can rely on using data obtained from satellite-images. These data are unique. They cover large areas of the oceans every day. This information can help scientists better understand the sources, distribution and life-span of these important “floating habitats”. An example of the usefulness in satellite data can be found in Dr. Gower, Dr. Young and Dr. King’s work published in the Remote Sensing Letters journal (2013), and from Dr. Hu, an USF-College of Marine Science professor, in the Gulf of Mexico (2015). Dr. Gower’s group was among the first to suggest that the Sargassum source in 2011 was the area of the tropical Atlantic off South America, an area where the water from the Amazon River forms a large plume every year. Whether this river plays a role in the formation of these blooms is not at all clear. They also used satellite-derived data to track the patterns of this seaweed in the Caribbean.
As scientists, we recognize the ecological importance of these “floating habitats”. As people that live on the coast and Islanders we also understand the economical and recreational burden of having large quantities of Sargassum wash up and decompose on our beaches. Future research will help understand the causalities of these Sargassum “invasions” which governments and managers could then use to help mitigate the economic impacts of these events. The University of the West Indies organized a sargassum symposium in August 2015 and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) is the designated lead on co-ordinating efforts in the Caribbean region to understand and sustainably manage sargassum http://www.sargassum-at-cermes.com/.
Jim Gower , Erika Young & Stephanie King (2013): Satellite images suggest a new Sargassum source region in 2011, Remote Sensing Letters, 4:8, 764-773
Jim Gower, Chuanmin Hu, Gary Bostad & Stephanie King (2006): Ocean color satellites show extensive lines of floating Sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 44:12, 3619-3625.
Chuanmin Hu, Lian Feng, Robert G. Hardy, Eric J. Hochberg (2015): Spectral and spatial requirement of remote sensing measurements of pelagic Sargassum macroalgae, Remote Sensing of Environment, 167, 229-246.
We have been highlighting all our video and photo submissions and winners all summer. In case you missed the campaign or would like a quick review of what happened, we have created a short (3 minute video) to show you the highlights. We had 11 submissions from over five different countries including India, Kenya, Barbados, Brazil and the United States!
Thank you to everyone that submitted and participated in this campaign. Congratulations again to our contest winners! If you have an innovative way to “reclcaim”, please share your story with us by uploading a video, photo or blog entry and tagging our twitter handle (@USF_reclaim) with a link to your story. Please surf our website for more ideas and opportunities for collaboration.
USF Reclaim students Matthew Verbyla (PhD, Environmental Engineering) and Paola Gonzalez (Fulbright Fellow, Anthropology, Brazil) recently had the opportunity to visit the Sanitation Research and Training Center (CePTS; Centro de Pesquisa e Treinamento em Saneamento), which is a collaboration between the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the Sanitation Company of Minas Gerais (COPASA; Companhia de Saneamento de Minas Gerais), in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. One of the most important research and training centers for sanitation in Latin America, CePTS “encompasses several research units which receive sanitary sewage” from the local wastewater treatment plant after preliminary treatment. Of the many pilot-scale wastewater treatment technologies being studied by UFMG researchers at CePTS, is an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor, followed by stabilization ponds and a rock filter. This system produces biogas with a high percentage of methane, and treated water that can be used for restricted irrigation. The system has been monitored and studied by UFMG researchers for over 10 years now (see http://www.sciencedirect.
During this trip to Belo Horizonte, Matthew and Paola received a tour of the research facility, and worked with UFMG PhD student Daniel Dias, who was collecting water samples. They also met with UFMG engineering professor Dr. Marcos von Sperling, and attended a research colloquium hosted by the UFMG Department of Environmental and Sanitary Engineering, where graduate students presented their work and advancements that have been made in their research to a committee of professors, who provided feedback. Reclaim Network at USF is to interact with and learn from a global network of engineers and practitioners who are dedicated to understanding and developing context-specific, geographically-appropriate, and culturally-relevant systems for managing and recovering water, energy and nutrient resources.
University of South Florida (USF) graduate student at the College of Marine Science Institute of Marine Remote Sensing, Abdiel Laureano-Rosario, has been awarded a prestigious NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) to pursue research that addresses public health risks in coastal areas. Specifically, he will be using novel tools such as remote sensing and machine learning, to understand how health is affected by vector-borne diseases and bathing water quality and how it may be related to local environmental changes. The results of Abdiel’s research will help determine which sectors of a population may be more or less susceptible to certain diseases based on environmental factors, which will provide essential information for risk management and mitigation. Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites. Abdiel will obtain data about regions in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), which is flown on two separate spacecrafts, named Aqua and Terra.
The purpose of the NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals. The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) supports basic and applied research in Earth and space science. The Earth Science Research Program, managed by the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate, fulfills NASA’s mission to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth (see NASA’s Strategic Plan) and, in particular, the strategic objective 2.2, which is to advance knowledge of Earth as a system to meet the challenges of environmental change, and to improve life on our planet. The Earth System Science component of NESSF encourages proposals that place particular emphasis on the utilization of NASA unique capabilities in study of the Earth. Foremost among NASA’s unique capabilities is its fleet of Earth observing satellites and sensors aboard the International Space Station, providing a comprehensive suite of measurements of all the components of the Earth system. The maximum amount of a NESSF award is $30,000 per year and the Earth Science component of NESSF encourages projects that link Earth science research with policy, business, or management studies. Abdiel has successfully linked Earth science research with pubic health policy and the management of risks.
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