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Eco-efficiency evaluation in wastewater treatment plants considering greenhouse gas emissions through the data envelopment analysis-tolerance model


The eco-efficiency evaluation in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is used to know and improve the environmental and economic efficiency of these processes, systems, products, and services. The eco-efficiency evaluations in WWTP contemplate the inputs to be minimized, the desirable results to be maximized, and the undesired results to be minimized. Data envelopment analysis (DEA) is a widely used method to evaluate the eco-efficiency of WWTPs; integrating several approaches in a single index, traditional DEA models do not take into account the uncertainty in the data. This study evaluates the eco-efficiency of a sample of Catalan WWTPs, considering the uncertainty of the data (DEA tolerance model), and it is for the first time that together with CO2, other greenhouse gas (GHG) such as CH4 and N2O are considered as part of the process outputs. GHG emissions were quantified using methods reported in the literature. Seven hundred twenty-nine eco-efficiency scores were estimated for each WWTP instead of a single score like conventional DEA models, analyzing optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. The WWTPs were classified according to the estimated eco-efficiency scores, accounting for the uncertainty in each of the scenarios, and demonstrating the changes in the performance of the WWTPs in the different scenarios. Only two WWTPs were eco-efficient in all the scenarios evaluated. This approach provides essential information to improve efficiency and innovation in the wastewater sector.

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Data availability

Data available and provides by the Technical area of Metropolitan Area of Barcelona.


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Monserrat G. Ramírez Melgarejo thanks CONACYT for the PhD scholarship. This work was supported by the operation data of the Technical Area of Sanitation and Inspection of the MAB.


Monserrat Ramírez-Melgarejo received a scholarship from CONACYT with agreement number 612685.

Author information




Ramírez-Melgarejo, Monserrat: conceptualization, research, methodology, writing—original draft and edition of the final manuscript. Güereca, Leonor Patricia: supervision, review and editing. Gassó-Domingo, Santiago: definition, supervision, and review. Salgado, CD: implementation of the method of classification and calculation of descriptive statistics. Reyes-Figueroa, A.D.: implementation of the linear programming method and preparation of the methodology.

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Correspondence to Monserrat Ramírez-Melgarejo.

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Ramírez-Melgarejo, M., Güereca, L.P., Gassó-Domingo, S. et al. Eco-efficiency evaluation in wastewater treatment plants considering greenhouse gas emissions through the data envelopment analysis-tolerance model. Environ Monit Assess 193, 301 (2021).

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  • Uncertainty
  • Environmental performance
  • Emission estimation
  • Process outputs
  • N2O emission
  • CH4 emission