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Position Paper on Energy Efficiency in the Water Industry


21 May 2012




Spring 2012

Aqua Europa (“AE”) is a federation of European trade associations for the supply chain of the water and wastewater industry. It represents more than 1 600 companies through its 11 member associations in eight European countries

and the USA. The companies cover the complete spectrum of the water industry supply chain, ranging from large-scale municipal treatment installations to domestic water treatment technologies, including engineering consultants, civil and process contractors, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, legal and financial institutions, research and training houses and suppliers of specialist services. These activities cover design, construction and operation of large scale treatment plant, manufacture and supply of equipment for large, medium and domestic scale use, monitoring, measuring, data management, R & D and the many services required to run a highly technical service industry.



Regulated approach to safe water supply – increasing concern about environmental management and implications of climate change – debate over energy efficiency of existing technologies – AQUA EUROPA’s recommendations for more industry-derived solutions to complement regulatory prescription.

The water services industry and energy efficiency

Substances in raw water posing risk to human health – environmentally harmful substances in wastewater – importance of water safety plans in minimising energy use in treatment prior to discharge – need for international support for fiscal incentives for private research and promote early adoption by water industry of more efficient and innovative processes.

Industrial, commercial, domestic water users and energy efficiency

Promotion of water efficiency in relation to buildings, industrial and domestic equipment – incentivisation for upgrading industrial and commercial wastewater treatment plants and resource and energy recovery – water conditioning and chemical water treatment for improved efficiency in domestic heating systems – need for application of CEN performance standards – energy recovery systems inside buildings, rainwater harvesting and greywater re-use – appropriate discharge routes for waste.

Regulations and water and energy efficiency

Economic charging to promote more efficient water use & innovation within water services – continuing adaptation of regulation within the sustainability remit to encourage water- and energyefficient processes – regulation to promote “appropriate” development and effective carbon management – assessment of regulatory impact on environment and compatibility of regulation in all sectors.

A. Introduction

A.1 Historically, the environment has been seen as an inexhaustible resource for materials and a depository for the disposal of wastes of all kinds. The consequences of this are now becoming all too apparent, with increasing contamination and impact on the water environment. Consequently there is a wide and expanding array of controlling regulations to facilitate safe water use and minimise the human impact on the water environment. Mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change are necessarily adding another dimension to the dilemmas facing the water industry.

A.2 The water industry harnesses and develops water resources and removes contaminants (natural and anthropogenic) in order to supply water that is suitable and safe for industrial, commercial, leisure, domestic use and for drinking. It collects municipal and industrial wastewater for treatment before discharging it safely with minimum environmental impact. This has required significant capital investment over many years in an extensive infrastructure with a long service life and significant operational expenditure to provide continuity of service.

A.3 Initially, provision of water services was the primary objective. However, expanding volumetric demand, water quality needs, environmental impact, energy use and climate change are now major considerations. These developments are challenging the adequacy and efficiency of an ageing infrastructure and raising significant questions regarding the energy efficiency of the technologies employed, quite apart from the amount of water and water-related energy consumed by users.

A.4 The water industry and its supply chain are tackling these challenges, as well as actively encouraging water efficiency among water users. The interplay of policy and economic imperatives, which overlap with technical and operational considerations, suggest that solutions deriving from industry practice, with fiscal incentives, rather than regulatory prescription, could offer more effective and flexible approaches to energy conservation. Aqua Europa’s position on these challenges, embraces the three dimensions of the industry:

• The water services industry and energy efficiency

• Industrial, commercial and domestic water users and energy efficiency

• Regulation and water and energy efficiency


B The water services industry and energy efficiency

Position 1: Aqua Europa acknowledges that there is an increasing number of substances deemed to pose health risks, so need to be removed from raw water before the water can be put into public supply. Other substances, in wastewater, which harm the environment, also need to be removed before discharge. The development of water safety plans will promote the use of risk evaluation to identify only those processes necessary for treating each water resource, and thus minimise energy use. Controlling and minimising the use of environmentally harmful substances will reduce the degree of wastewater treatment required and hence energy use prior to discharge.

Position 2: Aqua Europa supports the development of regulation for the protection of the water environment, for climate change mitigation and carbon footprint reduction, as well as the continued development of regulations to enhance efficient and sustainable use of water.

Position 3: Aqua Europa calls for continued national and international support for fiscal incentives for private research aimed at improved efficiency of water supply, wastewater treatment and energy efficiency within the extensive water industry infrastructure. The organisation highlights the need for material incentives both for both investment in innovation in its broadest sense and the encouragement of the early adoption in the industry of more efficient and innovative processes.

B.1 The amount of energy used by the water industry is proportional to overall water demand, the quality regulations for safe water use, volume of wastewater to be treated and environmental protection, all of which fall outside the direct control of the industry. However, energy consumption and the efficiency with which it is used are within the operational control of the sector. Water supply and environmental regulation require the removal of a growing number of substances before water can be used or discharged and energy use is a function of number of substances that need to be removed from raw water or wastewater.

B.2 It is estimated that, in order to satisfy current regulatory requirements, the water industry potentially will have to double its energy consumption over the next 20 years (ref 3). Currently, about half of energy used in wastewater treatment is accounted for by aerobic treatment processes; more than half of the energy used in water supply goes into pumping treated water to consumers and overall water industry energy use accounts for more than a quarter of its operational costs.

B.3 The water industry is constantly improving its energy efficiency through process and operational development, in conjunction with demand management, in order to encourage users to minimise water use, water-related energy consumption and

wastewater discharge. New regulations, especially to abate the effects of climate change, will add further significant pressures on the energy efficiency in the industry, while also promoting the need to use water more efficiently.

B.4 The water service industry, universally, is reviewing process operations and has developed proposals (ref 1, 2) for the longer term which will significantly improve energy economy, suggesting that wastewater treatment could become energyneutral within 20-30 years as it improves treatment efficiency, while extracting and generating energy from wastewaters and sludge.

B.5 Progress with research to improve the efficiency of individual processes is undertaken by the water service industry in close cooperation with industry supply chain, including universities, research houses, consultants, contractors, equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Major research is underpinned by private and public investment and will be crucial to realising the forecasts for improved energy efficiency targets and increased renewable energy generation by the industry.

B.6 Aqua Europa members are investing heavily for innovation in R&D in their specific areas of expertise, while contributing significant incremental improvements to the overall energy efficiency performance of water industry operations by developing, inter alia:

a. more efficient pumps

b. improved treatment processes that minimise use

of chemicals

c. enhanced biological processes for wastewater treatment

d. improved sludge minimisation, treatment and handling

e. technologies leading to the recovery of re-usable materials from wastewater

f. processes to enhance energy recovery and generation from wastewater

g. improved analytical, monitoring, metering and data communication and analysis systems


C Industrial, commercial and domestic water users and

energy efficiency

Position 4: Aqua Europa supports the development of incentives to encourage water efficiency envisaged by sustainability regulations relating to buildings, industrial equipment, domestic appliances and daily per capita consumption.

Position 5: Aqua Europa proposes that incentives be offered to upgrade industrial and commercial wastewater treatment plants, where suitable for energy and resource recovery by industry, commerce and in domestic properties. Greywater and rainwater use should be promoted where relevant provided that the construction, installation and maintenance of suitable plumbing networks can be guaranteed.

Position 6: Aqua Europa supports the introduction of quality and design criteria for re-using treated wastewater and rainwater harvesting, as well as the preparation of performance standards for equipment used in these processes by CEN.

Position 7: Aqua Europa endorses water conditioning and chemical water treatment as measures for improving the efficiency of domestic heating systems. It also advocates the introduction of regulation for sustainable water and energy use in homes by promoting the development and application of waterand energy efficient appliances combined with appropriate water treatments.

Position 8: Aqua Europa also emphasises the need for the application of CEN performance standards for relevant appliances and POE water treatment equipment, as well as the need to employ trained and competent installation and maintenance personnel in their maintenance.

Position 9: Aqua Europa advocates the development and installation inside buildings of energy recovery systems and, where appropriate, of equipment for rainwater harvesting and treated greywater re-use, providing quality and design needs are satisfied and trained and competent installation and maintenance personnel are used for their maintenance.

Position 10: Aqua Europa urges the development of appropriate discharge routes for waste to minimise their impact on wastewater services and treatment with a view to optimising energy and resource recovery where feasible.

Position 11: Aqua Europa proposes the introduction of incentives for owners of existing buildings to install more efficient water and related energy-use systems as well as the encouragement of appropriate greywater and rainwater reuse.

C.1 More efficient use of clean water will also reduce the volume and complexity of wastewater, significantly affecting overall water supply, energy use and energy efficiency in the sector. Consequently, water users should seek ways of minimising per capita consumption; reduce leakage rates, and install waterand energy-efficient systems and appliances within the built environment. Systems for greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting should be promoted where it is appropriate to do so. However, there are concerns regarding water quality, the need for a secondary dedicated plumbing network and secure methodology to prevent contamination of the clean water supply if such technologies are to be used alongside the municipal water supply in buildings.

C.2 Industrial and commercial water users are governed by normal commercial and economic pressures in order to minimise process and discharge costs. The savings can be maximised through a combination of using process water more efficiently and enhanced wastewater treatment to render it suitable for reuse within an industrial or commercial context. Wastewater treatment can include product and energy recovery, augmenting the efficiencies deriving from advanced wastewater treatment processes. Use of rainwater, notwithstanding availability and quality considerations, can also significantly reduce demands on the water supply and should thus be a factor in appropriate circumstances.

C.3 Domestic users can be profligate with water and are almost invariably unconscious of water-related energy consumption concerning water. However, the use of point-of-entry (POE) treatments can significantly reduce domestic water and waterDocument related energy use. The effects of water hardness on secondary heating systems in this context are worth stressing, as hardness removal can reduce water use and improve the energy efficiency of appliances providing/using hot water.

Water conditioning, especially water softening will minimise scale formation in water heaters and pipework, as well as reducing soap/detergent/cleaner use. Furthermore, when linked with corrosion inhibitors, water conditioning will also maintain the energy efficiency of water heaters used for space heating and minimise maintenance requirements within distribution networks in buildings, including leakage prevention and the correct operation of valves, taps and other sanitary ware.

C.4 Chemical inhibitors will reduce scale and prevent corrosion in primary heating systems. Employing a chemical inhibitor will ensure that the energy efficiency of the heating system is maintained, leading to a reduction in maintenance requirements within distribution networks in buildings, including leakage

prevention and the correct operation of valves, taps and other sanitary ware.

C.5 Water heating for both domestic use and space heating can

 consume more than half the energy used in a home. To maximise and maintain energy savings, appropriate water treatments, to clean the heating system pipework (removing corrosion, sludge and black iron oxide deposits) and inhibit

scale formation and corrosion, should be incorporated, in conjunction with regular maintenance by competent engineers. This will help to restore the effectiveness of heating systems by up to 15 percent. and will add to the significant energy efficiencies that can be achieved through installation of efficient water heaters and hot water space heating systems, including modern controllers and circulators to manage water flow.

C.6 The discharge of food wastes (including fats, oils and greases) and other domestic products can compromise municipal sewerage and wastewater treatment and increase maintenance and energy demands for wastewater treatment infrastructure. Alternative discard routes for the safe disposal of these wastes are recommended, as some of them can be converted to useful

products usable by, or diverted to, facilities designed to combine selected waste products before extracting the energy, or other usable products, before disposing of the nondegradable, unrecoverable waste.

C.7 Requirements for new building development to comply with sustainable design parameters will affect new construction, but not existing buildings. In order to maximise water use and energy savings there will need to be incentives to enhance or replace existing systems with newer more efficient technologies. The introduction of incentives will be facilitated by ensuring that true economic charges are made for all services, so that savings on water and energy use through retrofitting more efficient systems can be readily recouped.


D Regulation and water and energy efficiency

Position 12: Aqua Europa advocates the development and widespread application of an economic charge for water services to promote efficient use of water, innovation within water services and water use, as well as the application of appropriate treatment technologies, all of which will contribute to driving down energy use and maximise energy efficiency throughout the water cycle.

Position 13: Aqua Europa emphasises the need for the continuing adaptation of regulation, within the overall sustainability remit, as these will encourage innovation to develop progressively more water- and energy-efficient processes.

Position 14: Aqua Europa acknowledges the need for regulation aimed at promoting prevailing notions of “appropriate” development, abatement of the effects of climate change and new carbon accounting rules, and recognises that sensitive overarching carbon management will promote improved energy and general efficiency in water industry operations.

Position 15: Aqua Europa calls for an assessment of the likely impacts that new regulations may have on the environment and consequently on the water

industry. This is as relevant for regulation for specific sectors as it is for the more general carbon accounting and climate change mitigation regulations. It is imperative that regulations for different sectors are compatible to ensure that they

complement each other so that a regulation for one sector does not inadvertently add to the problems for another sector – that there are no unintended


D.1 The nature of the water services industry makes extensive regulation and economic oversight necessary. The public requires access to safe drinking water, commerce and industry requires a consistent and dependable water supply and all wastewater requires sufficient treatment to ensure that discharges to the environment do not cause further contamination. To safeguard universal access to water there is an obligation on all water users to use it efficiently and not wastefully and so to optimise this there is a need for oversight and guidance to all users hence regulation is required.

D.2 Economic oversight of the industry is necessary to develop charging mechanisms that reflect, so far as politically practicable, the true economic cost of the services in order to promote efficient use of water. Energy use in service provision will be a function of treatment required and efficient use of water will minimise energy use. Regulation is a driver, but pricing it at or close to the economic cost of water wastewater services will link efficient use with cost and so put downward pressure on use – and, importantly, will also drive innovation in water services and water use.

D.3 Innovation at all stages in the cycle of water provision, use and return to the environment can bring significant savings in energy use. At the larger scale catchment management practices, process development, network and demand management can lead to improved energy efficiency. Innovation in smaller scale

treatment processes and applications will encourage careful use, recycling of process water in industry and greater reuse at the commercial and domestic level. Controlling water characteristics in the many uses of heated water as well as improvements in temperature control, circulatory and management systems will increase energy efficiency and reduce energy used in water services within buildings.

D.4 The integration of modern society and the overall framework of regulations required results in activity in one sector impacting on a number of other sectors. This is unavoidable but places an obligation on regulatory development to minimise the inadvertent and indirect impact of regulations on sectors which are not the prime focus of a regulation. This is particularly true for environmental regulation which is being significantly influenced by climate change and carbon accounting regulations.

D.5 The development of regulations for water and environmental quality, economic oversight of water services, appropriate and sustainable use of water and energy are necessary. There is an impact of land use, agriculture, chemical production and use, transport, energy production (traditional and renewable) on water resources. Industry and commerce, building construction and plumbing systems will impact water use and water services within buildings. It is imperative that a high level of public safety and health in relation to water and wastewater treatment and discharge requirements is maintained. It is necessary that the potential impact on the water sector of regulations in all of these diverse areas are assessed to minimise the chances of adversely affecting or even conflicting with appropriate regulation and governance of the water industry. The development of integrated regulation sensitive to the needs of the environment will provide longer term benefits for the environment and closely related sectors. This is especially true for the wide ranging impacts that regulations for sustainable development, climate change mitigation and for carbon accounting will have.



1 Water and Energy in the Urban Water Cycle, Improving Energy Efficiency in Municipal Wastewater Treatment

Prepared by: Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), in collaboration with PUB Singapore Global Water Research Coalition, October 2010

2 Technology Roadmap for Sustainable Wastewater Treatment Plants in a Carbon-constrained World by: George V. Crawford, P.Eng. CH2M HILL Canada Limited for the Water Environment Research Foundation

Published by the International Water Association 2010

3 Energy efficient water and wastewater treatment. Prepared by Issy Caffoor for the Environmental Knowledge Transfer Network, January 2008


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