Exploration of climate-neutrality in the water cycle at the tactical and strategic level

Practically all water companies have ambitions and objectives concerning a climate-neutral water cycle. In the first instance, these ambitions target the drinking-water part of the water cycle, but, in a number of cases, they reach further and, for example, encompass households as well. The latter example is based on the awareness that the highest levels of energy consumption in the water cycle take place in peoples’ homes.

The water companies can learn a lot from each other by becoming better informed about different methods used and the anchoring of CO2 emission reduction. Within the framework of the water sector’s joint research programme (BTO), we want to set up a simple and acceptable calculation method, which the companies can adopt if they wish. Such a method would also facilitate the comparison of company results. This raises research questions at both tactical and strategic levels.

The objective of this project is two-fold:

  1. Establish and compare the existing ambitions in the quest for climate-neutrality within the drinking water sector, as a basis for further research (tactical level).
  2. Research and establish how water companies in 2030 can make a contribution to sustainable water cycle solutions that are adjusted to a specific local context and address the issue of governance (strategic level).

Survey, Scenarios and Roadmap

The following activities are foreseen in the project:

  1. We survey the current climate ambitions of the different water companies and their concrete details (methods, assurance).
  2. We draw up a list of measures that companies currently apply with a view to realising their climate-neutrality ambitions.
  3. We conduct a literature study of the ‘climate-neutral water cycle, including a wrap-up of existing results of BTO research and existing (applied) technical concepts.
  4. We describe possible scenarios for the circular city of tomorrow (future vision).
  5. We develop a ‘Water cycle Roadmap 2030’, including different routes water companies can take to contribute to sustainable water cycle solutions, and the companies’ framework of action in the years ahead.
  6. We produce a survey of different technical concepts aimed at achieving a climate-neutral water cycle, and convert them into illustrative visual material for inclusion in the Roadmap.
  7. We organise workshops and report on the outcomes.

Technical concepts for a climate-neutral water cycle

The objective, at the end of the project, is to have available different technical concepts, represented in illustrative visual material, aimed at achieving a climate neutral-neutral water cycle. These concepts will be presented to water companies in a workshop and incorporated into a concise and easily accessible document/presentation. Every water company will be able to make use of the project’s outcome as a basis for the development of its own future vision and mission.

The project’s first key deliverable is an overview, by the water company, of the climate ambitions, calculation methods and methods employed to assure climate-neutrality within its organisation’s work processes, and a list of measures to reduce its CO2 footprint.

At the end of the project, we will also have a ‘Water cycle Roadmap 2030’ (complementary to the ‘Wastewater Cycle Roadmap 2030’ of the Association of Regional Water Authorities and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities), which includes routes water companies can take to contribute to sustainable water cycle solutions, adjusted to a specific local context.

The project will also produce various concrete technical concepts for the attainment of a climate-neutral water cycle, including distinct roles for the water companies and other stakeholders, presented in illustrative visual material.