Life cycle assessment of drinking water: comparing conventional water treatment, reverse osmosis and mineral water in glass and plastic bottles
Rights accessOpen Access
This study evaluated the environmental impacts caused by drinking water consumption in Barcelona (Spain) using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. Five different scenarios were compared: 1) tap water from conventional drinking water treatment; 2) tap water from conventional drinking water treatment with reverse osmosis at the water treatment plant; 3) tap water from conventional drinking water treatment with domestic reverse osmosis; 4) mineral water in plastic bottles, and 5) mineral water in glass bottles. The functional unit was 1 m3 of water. The water treatment plant considered in scenarios 1, 2 and 3, treats around 5 m3 s-1 of surface water. The water bottling plants considered in scenarios 4 and 5 have a production capacity of 200 m3 of bottled water per day. The LCA was performed with the software SimaPro®, using the CML 2 baseline method. The results showed how tap water consumption was the most favourable alternative, while bottled water presented the worst results due to the higher raw materials and energy inputs required for bottles manufacturing, especially in the case of glass bottles. The impacts generated by domestic reverse osmosis were between 10 and 24% higher than tap water alternative depending on the impact category. It was due to the higher electricity consumption. Reverse osmosis at the water treatment plant showed impacts nearly twice as high as domestic reverse osmosis systems scenario, mainly because of the higher energy inputs. Water treated by domestic reverse osmosis equipment was the most environmentally friendly solution for the improvement of tap water organoleptic characteristics. An economic analysis showed that this solution was between 8 and 19 times cheaper than bottled water.
CitationMarianna Garfi', Cadena, E., Sanchez-Ramos, D., Ferrer, I. Life cycle assessment of drinking water: comparing conventional water treatment, reverse osmosis and mineral water in glass and plastic bottles. "Journal of cleaner production", Novembre 2016, vol. 137, p. 997-1003.