Assessing freshwater use impacts in LCA: Part I—inventory modelling and characterisation factors for the main impact pathways

  • Llorenç Milà i Canals
  • Jonathan Chenoweth
  • Ashok Chapagain
  • Stuart Orr
  • Assumpció Antón
  • Roland Clift
WATER USE IN LCA

Abstract

Background, aim and scope

Freshwater is a basic resource for humans; however, its link to human health is seldom related to lack of physical access to sufficient freshwater, but rather to poor distribution and access to safe water supplies. On the other hand, freshwater availability for aquatic ecosystems is often reduced due to competition with human uses, potentially leading to impacts on ecosystem quality. This paper summarises how this specific resource use can be dealt with in life cycle analysis (LCA).

Main features

The main quantifiable impact pathways linking freshwater use to the available supply are identified, leading to definition of the flows requiring quantification in the life cycle inventory (LCI).

Results

The LCI needs to distinguish between and quantify evaporative and non-evaporative uses of ‘blue’ and ‘green’ water, along with land use changes leading to changes in the availability of freshwater. Suitable indicators are suggested for the two main impact pathways [namely freshwater ecosystem impact (FEI) and freshwater depletion (FD)], and operational characterisation factors are provided for a range of countries and situations. For FEI, indicators relating current freshwater use to the available freshwater resources (with and without specific consideration of water ecosystem requirements) are suggested. For FD, the parameters required for evaluation of the commonly used abiotic depletion potentials are explored.

Discussion

An important value judgement when dealing with water use impacts is the omission or consideration of non-evaporative uses of water as impacting ecosystems. We suggest considering only evaporative uses as a default procedure, although more precautionary approaches (e.g. an ‘Egalitarian’ approach) may also include non-evaporative uses. Variation in seasonal river flows is not captured in the approach suggested for FEI, even though abstractions during droughts may have dramatic consequences for ecosystems; this has been considered beyond the scope of LCA.

Conclusions

The approach suggested here improves the representation of impacts associated with freshwater use in LCA. The information required by the approach is generally available to LCA practitioners

Recommendations and perspectives

The widespread use of the approach suggested here will require some development (and consensus) by LCI database developers. Linking the suggested midpoint indicators for FEI to a damage approach will require further analysis of the relationship between FEI indicators and ecosystem health.

Keywords

Ecosystem Evaporative use FD FEI Freshwater ecosystem impact LCA LCI LCIA Virtual water Water footprint Water resource 

Supplementary material

11367_2008_30_MOESM1_ESM.doc (190 kb)
Table A-1Values for WRPC and WUPR for world countries (DOC 190 KB)
11367_2008_30_MOESM2_ESM.doc (101 kb)
Table A-2Values for WSI for the main world river basins (kindly provided by V. Smakhtin) (DOC 101 KB)

References

  1. Alcamo J, Henrich T, Rösch T (2000) World Water in 2025—global modeling and scenario analysis for the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century. Centre for Environmental System Research, University of Kassel, Kassel. Available at http://www.usf.uni-kassel.de/usf/archiv/dokumente/kwws/kwws.2.pdf
  2. Allan JA (1998) Virtual water: a strategic resource global solutions to regional deficits. Groundwater 36(4):545–546Google Scholar
  3. Allan JA (2001) The Middle East water question: hydropolitics and the global economy. I.B. Tauris, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M (1998) Crop evapotranspiration—guidelines for computing crop water requirements. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  5. Antón MA, Montero JI, Lorenzo P, Muñoz P, Castells F (2005) Use of water in LCA: case study involving protected horticulture in the Mediterranean. In: Castells F, Rieradevall J (eds) LCM2005. Innovation by life cycle management. Barcelona, Spain, pp 394–398Google Scholar
  6. Avlonitis SA, Kouroumbas K, Vlachakis N (2003) Energy consumption and membrane replacement cost for seawater RO desalination plants. Desalination 157:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauer C, Zapp P (2004) Generic characterisation factors for land use and water consumption. In: Dubreuil A (ed) Life cycle assessment of metals—issues and research directions. SETAC, Pensacola, USA, pp 147–152Google Scholar
  8. Brent AC (2004) A life cycle impact assessment procedure with resource groups as areas of protection. Int J Life Cycle Assess 9(3):172–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapagain AK, Hoekstra AY (2003) Virtual water flows between nations in relation to trade in livestock and livestock products. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 13, UNESCO-IHEGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapagain AK, Hoekstra AY (2004) Water footprints of nations. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 16. UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  11. Chapagain AK (2006) Globalisation of water: opportunities and threats of virtual water trade. Balkema, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  12. Chapagain AK, Orr S (2008) An improved water footprint methodology to link global consumption to local water resources: a case study of Spanish tomato consumption. J Environ Manage (in press)Google Scholar
  13. Chapagain AK, Hoekstra AY, Savenije HHG, Gautam R (2006) The water footprint of cotton consumption: an assessment of the impact of worldwide consumption of cotton products on the water resources in the cotton producing countries. Ecol Econ 60(1):186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chenoweth J (2008a) Minimum water requirement for social and economic development. Desalination 229(1–3):245–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chenoweth J (2008b) Re-assessing the standard indicator of water scarcity. Water Int 33(1):5–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coltro L, Mourad AL, Oliveira PAPLV, Baddini JPOA, Kletecke RM (2006) Environmental profile of Brazilian green coffee. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(1):16–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cuenca RH (1989) Irrigation system design: an engineering approach. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  18. Custodio E (2002) Aquifer overexploitation: what does it mean. Hydrogeol J 10:254–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dones R, Faist M, Frischknecht R, Heck T, Jungbluth N (2004) Life cycle inventories of energy systems: results for current systems in Switzerland and other UCTE countries. Final report Ecoinvent 2000 No. 5, Paul Scherrer Institut Villigen, Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, Duebendorf (Switzerland, for Ecoinvent members only)Google Scholar
  20. Dudgeon D, Arthington AH, Gessner MO, Kawabata Z, Knowler DJ, Leveque C, Naiman RJ, Prieur-Richard A, Soto D, Stiassny MLJ, Sullivan CA (2005) Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biol Rev 81:163–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elimelech M (2007) Yale constructs forward osmosis desalination pilot plant. Membr Technol 1:7–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. European Environment Agency (2003) Indicator fact sheet: (WQ01c) Water exploitation index. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen. http://themes.eea.europa.eu/Specific_media/water/indicators/WQ01c%2C2003.1001/WEI_101003v2.pdf
  23. Falkenmark M (1986) Fresh water—time for a modified approach. Ambio 15:192–200Google Scholar
  24. Feitelson E, Chenoweth J (2002) Water poverty: towards a meaningful indicator. Water Policy 4(3):263–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. FAO (1992) CROPWAT: a computer program for irrigation planning and management. Irrigation and Drainage, Paper NO. 46, FAO, Rome, http://www.fao.org
  26. FAO (1993) CLIMWAT for CROPWAT: a climatic database for irrigation planning and management. Irrigation and Drainage, Paper No. 49, FAO, Rome, http://www.fao.org
  27. FAO (2003) Review of world water resources by country. Food and Agriculture Organization, RomeGoogle Scholar
  28. FAO (2004) Aquastat: FAO’s information system on water and agriculture. Land and water development division, food and agriculture organization, http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/aquastat/dbase/index.stm
  29. Frischknecht R (2008) Regionalised assessment of fresh water abstraction within the ecological scarcity method 2006. 35th Discussion Forum: Assessment of Water Use within LCA. 5th June 2008. ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, http://www.lcainfo.ch/df/default.htm
  30. Fritzmann C, Löwenberg J, Wintgens T, Melin T (2007) State-of-the-art of reverse osmosis desalination. Desalination 216:1–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gleick PH (1993) Water in crisis: a guide to the world’s fresh water resources. Oxford University Press, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  32. Goedkoop M, Spriensma R (1999) The Eco-Indicator 99. A damage oriented method for life cycle impact assessment. Methodology Report, Third edition June 2001. http://www.pre.nl/eco-indicator99/ei99-reports.htm
  33. Group for efficient appliances (1995) Washing machines, driers and dishwashers. Danish Energy Agency, http://www.ens.dk/graphics/publikationer/Energibesparelser_UK/gea2_col.pdf
  34. Guinée JB, Heijungs R (1995) A proposal for the definition of resource equivalency factors for use in product life cycle assessment. Environ Toxicol Chem 14(5):917–925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Guinée JB, Gorrée M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Kleijn R, de Koning A, van Oers L, Wegener Sleeswijk A, Suh S, Udo de Haes HA, de Bruijn JA, van Duin R, Huijbregts MAJ (2002) Handbook on life cycle assessment. Operational guide to the ISO standards. Series: eco-efficiency in industry and science. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  36. Hauschild MZ, Wenzel H (1998) Environmental assessment of products. Vol. 2: scientific background. Chapman and Hall (ed), University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  37. Hernández-Mora N, Martínez Cortina L, Llamas MR, Custodio E (2007) Groundwater issues in southern EU member states. Spain Country Report. Draft of a near future article presented on April 19, 2007 in the second meeting of the EASAC working group in the headquarters of the ARECES Foundation in MadridGoogle Scholar
  38. Heuvelmans G, Muys B, Feyen J (2005) Extending the life cycle methodology to cover impacts of land use systems on the water balance. Int J Life Cycle Assess 10:113–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hoekstra AY, Hung PQ (2002) Virtual water trade: a quantification of virtual water flows between nations in relation to international crop trade. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 11. UNESCO-IHE, Delft, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  40. Jensen ME, Burman RD, Allen RG (1990) Evapotranspiration and irrigation water requirements. ASCE-manuals and reports on engineering practice 70. American Society of Civil Engineers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Johnson BN (1994) Inventory of land management inputs for producing absorbent fiber for diapers: a comparison of cotton and softwood land management. For Prod J 44:39–45Google Scholar
  42. Lindeijer E, Müller-Wenk R, Steen B (eds) (2002) Impact assessment of resources and land use. In: Udo de Haes HA, Finnveden G, Goedkoop M, Hauschild M, Hertwich EG, Hofstetter P, Jolliet O, Klöpffer W, Krewitt W, Lindeijer EW, Müller-Wenk R, Olsen SI, Pennington DW, Potting J, Steen B (eds) Life cycle impact assessment: striving towards best practice. SETAC, Pensacola, USA, pp 11–64Google Scholar
  43. Lundie S, Peters GM, Beavis PC (2004) Life cycle assessment for sustainable metropolitan water systems planning. Environ Sci Technol 38(13):3465–3473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McGinnis R, Elimelech M (2007) Energy requirements of ammonia–carbon dioxide forward osmosis desalination. Desalination 207:370–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Micklin PP (1988) Desiccation of the Aral Sea: a water management disaster in the Soviet Union. Science 241:1170–1176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Milà i Canals L, Domènech X, Rieradevall J, Fullana P, Puig R (2002) Use of life cycle assessment for the establishment of the ecological criteria for the Catalan eco-label of leather. Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(1):39–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Milà i Canals L, Burnip GM, Cowell SJ (2006) Evaluation of the environmental impacts of apple production using life cycle assessment (LCA): case study in New Zealand. Agric Ecosyst Environ 114:226–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Milà i Canals L, Bauer C, Depestele J, Dubreuil A, Freiermuth Knuchel R, Gaillard G, Michelsen O, Müller-Wenk R, Rydgren B (2007) Key elements in a framework for land use impact assessment in LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(1):5–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mohamed YA, van den Hurk BJJM, Savenije HHG, Bastiaanssen WGM (2005) Hydroclimatology of the Nile: results from a regional climate model. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 9(3):263–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Muñoz I, Rieradevall J, Domènech X, Milà i Canals L (2004) LCA application to integrated waste management planning in Gipuzkoa (Spain). Int J Life Cycle Assess 9(4):272–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muñoz I, Rieradevall J, Domènech X, Gazulla C (2006) Using LCA to assess eco-design in the automotive sector: case study of a polyolefinic door panel. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(5):323–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Muñoz I, Milà i Canals L, Clift R (2008) Consider a spherical man—a simple model to include human excretion in life cycle assessment of food products. J Ind Ecol (in press)Google Scholar
  53. Owens JW (2002) Water resources in life-cycle impact assessment. Considerations in choosing category indicators. J Ind Ecol 5:37–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Raskin P, Gliek P, Kirshen P, Pontius G, Strzepek K (1997) Water futures: assessment of long-range patterns and problems. Swedish Environment Institute/United Nations, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  55. Rockstrom J, Lannerstad M, Falkenmark M (2006) Assessing the water challenge of a new green revolution in developing countries. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0605739104v1
  56. Sauer BJ, Hilderbrandt CC, Franklin WE, Hunt RG (1994) Resource and environmental profile analysis of children’s diaper systems. Environ Toxicol Chem 13:1003–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smakhtin V, Revenga C, Döll P (2004) Taking into account environmental water requirements in global-scale water resources assessments. Comprehensive Assessment Report 2, http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/assessment/FILES/pdf/publications/ResearchReports/CARR2.pdf
  58. Stewart M, Weidema B (2005) A consistent framework for assessing the impacts from resource use. A focus on resource functionality. Int J Life Cycle Assess 10(4):240–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. United Nations Development Programme (2006) Human development report 2006. Oxford University Press, New York, http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/report.cfm
  60. WHO (World Health Organization) (2004) Water, sanitation and hygiene links to health: facts and figures. Geneva, Switzerland, http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/factsfigures2005.pdf
  61. WWF (2006) Living planet report 2006. WWF International, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  62. Zhang L, Dawes WR, Walker GR (1999) Predicting the effect of vegetation changes on catchment average water balance. Technical Report 99/12. Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment HydrologyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Llorenç Milà i Canals
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jonathan Chenoweth
    • 2
  • Ashok Chapagain
    • 3
  • Stuart Orr
    • 3
  • Assumpció Antón
    • 4
  • Roland Clift
    • 2
  1. 1.Unilever – Safety & Environmental Assurance CentreBedfordshireUK
  2. 2.Centre for Environmental StrategyUniversity of SurreySurreyUK
  3. 3.WWF-UK, Panda HouseSurreyUK
  4. 4.IRTA, ctra. CabrilsCabrils (Barcelona)Spain

Personalised recommendations