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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions associated with Water Distribution Systems

Jun 11, 2013
Author: Goyder Institute


A water distribution system is the network of storage tanks, pipes, pumps and valves that delivers clean drinking water to households. Water distribution systems are an essential part of modern cities, however their construction, maintenance and operation requires energy. There is an increasing realisation that our energy usage goes hand in hand with the production of greenhouse gases (GHG), which are recognised as a key component of humaninduced climate change. The two main sources associated with the release of greenhouse gas emissions in water distribution systems are the embodied energy in the materials used to construct the system (e.g. pipes and pumps), and the use of electricity for the purpose of running pumps.

This research concentrates on methods to reduce GHG emissions from the latter source. South Australia’s electricity grid relies heavily on coal-fired generation, with relatively high GHG emissions, and the somewhat cleaner gas-fired generation. South Australia also has one of the highest penetrations of wind generation in the world. The generation of GHG emissions associated with electricity production may therefore fluctuate significantly on an hourly, daily and seasonal basis. This project examines the nexus between water distribution systems and the electricity grid in order to identify ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The work is being carried out as part of the ongoing research program on water distribution systems of the WaterSYSTEMS research group at the University of Adelaide (School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering).

To-date, a framework-based approach to understanding the interconnections between the water distribution and electricity generation sectors has been developed. In addition, data collection and analysis of electricity generation and its associated greenhouse gas emissions has been undertaken. This data, together with information gained from the aforementioned framework, has been integrated into an optimisation tool that is being used to develop better ways to design and operate water distribution systems with the objectives of reducing the running costs and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the systems.

Chris Stokes is a PhD Student at the School of Civil, Environmental & Mining Engineering, University of Adelaide