Calculation of drinking water utilities’ CO2 footprint

Drinking water utilities currently have a clearly defined utility function: to produce and supply safe and reliable drinking water at a cost acceptable to society. Part of this cost involves the production and transport of the drinking water. A larger part relates to heating drinking water within households and to its treatment following use. Fossil fuels are still used to meet the associated energy requirements. Municipalities, Water Authorities and drinking water utilities have now joined forces to make the water cycle more sustainable. Most drinking water utilities have therefore incorporated this role into their extended utility function.

The initiative focuses first on the drinking water component of the water cycle. In a number of cases this involves a far-reaching ambition; for example, including households in the effort to enhance sustainability. The Operational Code for CO2 Footprint Calculation for drinking water utilities provides a useful tool to monitor these ambitions.

Formalisation of CO2 footprint calculation according to Operational Code 11 (PCD11)

The Drinking Water Operational Codes (PCDs, from the Dutch initials), introduced in 2015, consist of private-law guidelines to assist the Dutch drinking water utilities in their daily operational management. Their purpose is to safeguard and (when possible) improve the high quality levels, to promote efficiency and to harmonise working methods within the water sector. The guidelines are intended as recommendations and are thus not binding. The operational codes are developed on commissions from the Platform Bedrijfsvoering (Management Platform), in which all of the Dutch drinking water utilities and the Flemish water services company Pidpa are represented. The Platform has delegated the management of the operational codes to the Operational Codes Supervisory Group, which fulfils the ‘ownership’ role.

One of this series of Operational Codes (PCD11) presents a standard methodology for calculating the CO2 footprint of drinking water utilities. The aim is to formalise the methodology and to achieve more uniformity and consistency in the calculation.

First version in January 2019

The first version of the Operational Code for CO2 Footprint Calculation was delivered to the water utilities in January 2019. Since the code is seen as a proposal, the drinking water utilities can interpret it according to their situation. For instance, they can even decide which aspects to include in the calculation and which to leave out. This flexibility also makes possible the phased introduction of certain elements into the calculation, which could be needed, for example, because the utility is not yet in a position to act, or because the tools for an exact quantification are not yet available.

Users’ experiences guide the development

The Operational Code PCD11 will develop over time on the basis of the users’ experiences. The experiences of the drinking water sector – for example, the Blauwe Netten (Blue Networks) for the sustainable procurement of energy and chemicals – will also be taken into account. In the future, this could lead to more unambiguous emission factors for specific types of energy and chemicals. The Operational Code will be kept up-to-date through periodic evaluation rounds.