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Life cycle assessment of the supply and use of water in the Segura Basin

  • Javier Uche
  • Amaya Martínez-Gracia
  • Uriel Carmona
WATER USE IN LCA

Abstract

Purpose

In this paper, the combined life cycle assessment of the water supply alternatives and the water use in a water-stressed watershed in Spain (the Segura) is presented. Although it is a dry area, agriculture and tourism are very profitable sectors with high water demands. Thus, external water supply alternatives including water transfers or desalination partly balance the reduced natural water availability to cover the existing water demands.

Methods

In order to integrate both the impact of water supply alternatives and water use, the ReCiPe method was used to assess the water supply alternatives at the endpoint approach with the three specific damage categories: human health, ecosystem diversity and damage to resources availability. At the same time, the water use impact was calculated and grouped in the same categories. Firstly, one average cubic metre of water at the user's gate in the Segura Basin area was taken as the functional unit. As irrigation and drinking water constitute the principal water uses, it was considered that to separately analyse 1 m3 used for irrigation and 1 m3 destined to drinking purposes could provide interesting information. Then, these units were also considered as functional units. Then, three additional hypothetical scenarios were introduced: two of them defined by a strong variability in rainfall and the third by a sudden diminution of water transferred from a neighbouring basin.

Results and discussion

Regarding the facilities to provide 1 m3 at user's gate in the Segura Basin, results showed that the seawater desalination plants obtained the highest score for all the three considered damage categories, followed by the Tajo–Segura water transfer, the groundwater, the local surface waters and the water reuse. In relation to the water use impact, the damage to ecosystems diversity was very representative with respect to the one coming from water supply infrastructures because irrigation constituted 85 % of the total demand.

Conclusions

The diversification of water supply alternatives within a region considerably increases any environmental impact, primarily stemming from the additional required infrastructures, and frequently from the use of external water sources for their uses. Thus, users and policy makers should be aware of the costs that a guaranteed water supply entails. In water-scarce territories, the use of external solutions such as desalination or water transfer either increase the environmental impact due to their high energy consumption or they are limited by existing climate variability. Therefore, they cannot be considered as the definite solution, which would be a balance between renewable sources and existing demands.

Keywords

ReCiPe Water LCA Water scarcity Water supply Water use 

Abbreviations

AGUA

Actuaciones para la Gestión y Utilización del Agua (Actions for the Management and Use of Water)

DWR

Direct water reuse

ED

Ecosystem diversity

EIO-LCA

Energy input–output life cycle analysis

ERWT

Ebro river water transfer

GW

Groundwater

HH

Human health

IWR

Indirect water reuse

LCA

Life cycle assessment

LCEA

Life cycle energy analysis

LCI

Life cycle inventory

LCIA

Life cycle impact assessment

LSW

Local surface waters

MCT

Mancomunidad de los Canales del Taibilla.

NPP

Net primary production

OGW

Overexploited ground waters

P

Precipitation

RA

Resources availability

RGW

Renewable groundwater

RFI

Returns from irrigation

SEC

Specific energy consumption

SWDP

Seawater desalination plant

TSWT

Tajo–Segura water transfer

VF

Variation factor

WA

Water availability

WR

Water reuse

WRP

Water reuse plant

WSI

Water stress index

WTA

Ratio of total annual freshwater withdrawals to hydrological availability

WTP

Water treatment plant

WU

Water use

WWTP

Wastewater treatment plant

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the support given to this work, which was under the framework of the R+D+i project ENE2009-14515-CO-01, financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the English editing and advice given by Kai Whiting.

Supplementary material

11367_2013_677_MOESM1_ESM.docx (9.4 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 9653 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Javier Uche
    • 1
  • Amaya Martínez-Gracia
    • 1
  • Uriel Carmona
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Resources Area, CIRCE Research InstituteUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Cinara Institute–Engineering FacultyDel Valle Cali UniversityCaliColombia

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