This research investigates the embodied energy associated with water use. A geographic information system (GIS) was tested using data from Loudoun County, Virginia. The objective of this study is to estimate the embodied energy and carbon emission levels associated with water service at a geographical location and to improve for sustainability planning. Factors that affect the carbon footprint were investigated and the use of a GIS based model as a sustainability planning framework was evaluated.
The carbon footprint metric is a useful tool for prediction and measurement of a system's sustainable performance over its expected life cycle. Two metrics were calculated: tons of carbon dioxide per year to represent the contribution to global warming and watt-hrs per gallon to show the embodied energy associated with water consumption. The water delivery to the building, removal of wastewater from the building and associated treatment of water and wastewater create a sizable carbon footprint; often the energy attributed to this water service is the greatest end use of electrical energy. The embodied energy in water depends on topographical characteristics of the area's local water supply, the efficiency of the treatment systems, and the efficiency of the pumping stations. The questions answered by this research are: What is the impact of demand side sustainable water practices on the embodied energy as represented by a comprehensive carbon footprint? What are the major energy consuming elements attributed to the system? What is a viable and visually identifiable tool to estimate the carbon footprint attributed to those Greenhouse Gas (GHG) producing elements? What is the embodied energy and emission associated with water use delivered to a building?
Benefits to be derived from a standardized GIS applied carbon footprint estimation approach include: (1) Improved environmental and economic information for the developers, water and wastewater processing and municipal planners; (2) Improved energy use reporting and conservation planning; (3) Establishment of a benchmark for GHG emissions attributed to the water and wastewater industry; (4) Ability to quantify relative impacts of building design options using carbon emission equivalents.
The GIS based model was applied to the Dulles South and Brambelton regions in Loudoun County, Virginia. The GIS revealed the customer's embodied energy to be in the range of 4.41MWh/Mgal to 8.0 MWh/Mgal. The customer's carbon footprint is between 0.008 and18.0 Tons of CO2 for year 2008.
The results of this study contributed to development of a standardized approach to estimate the GHG impact of a total water cycle, and provided a viable GIS tool resulting in visual maps as a decision support. It also showed the use of derived empirical formulas in predication of GHG impact for end users in a specific geographical area. The embodied energy in delivered water can be estimated using the devised model and be considered by the building sustainability ranking programs such as the USGBC LEED rating system.
KEYWORDS. Water Life Cycle, Embodied Energy, Global Warming Potential, Energy Intensity, Energy Intensity Matrix, Emission Intensity, Emission Coefficient, Carbon Dioxide Emission, Water and Wastewater, Collection, Treatment and Distribution, Carbon Footprint, Topography, Municipality, Environmental Indicator, ArcGIS, LEED, GHG, ESI, LCA, LCEA, LCI, Sustainability, End Use, Potable Water