Management, Economics and Policy

Methods for Comparison of Wastewater Treatment Options

Publication Date: April 2005
Cooperating Institution: Ocean Arks International
Principal Investigator: Barton Kirk
Project Budget: $58,685
Project Identifier: WU-HT-03-33


Present methods used in the US for evaluating the consequences of wastewater treatment systems are primarily economic or only take into account the effect of effluent on receiving waters. As a result, the true environmental and social costs of wastewater treatment are often not included in decision making. Many communities face decisions regarding centralized versus decentralized wastewater treatment as well as numerous strategies and technologies available within the centralized and decentralized sectors. This proposal aims to evaluate analytical tools and methods that have the potential to capture the environmental consequences of wastewater alternatives in non-monetary units. Methods to be evaluated include life cycle assessment (LCA) and associated software, environmental impact assessment (EIA), exergy evaluation, and the Sustainability Process Index (SPI). The models will be evaluated in the context of several common scenarios of wastewater treatment decisions in the US. Criteria used to evaluate each tool include data availability, ease of use, capture of relevant environmental, economic, and social factors, and interest and usefulness of the information to decision makers. The specific objectives of this project are to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each tool, describe the barriers for use in the US, and recommend models to be used in various wastewater treatment decision scenarios, and describe and prioritize the steps and costs to completing analyses.

Associated Documents:

Final Report

Executive Summary