Powering Wastewater Renaissance

Powering the Wastewater Renaissance


Hidden away or underground, wastewater infrastructure is an essential component to growing, sustainable communities. Around the world, this infrastructure enables cities to develop, economies to grow and communities to thrive. It is also a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to inherent inefficiencies. (Source: EPA)

 Meanwhile, the global environmental challenges we face are becoming more urgent each day. Failing or inefficient infrastructure is one factor that poses serious environmental and economic risk. Our latest research shows that solutions to some of these challenges are available today—and the economic implications are compelling. Existing high efficiency wastewater management systems can significantly cut harmful emissions without adding costs to current operations around the world. What are we waiting for?

Download our infographic 

This study assesses 18 distinct electricity-related emissions abatement opportunities across three core regions: the United States, Europe, and China. A summary of the results by region can be found in Table 1. For each of the abatement opportunities, the concepts of marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) and internal rate of return (IRR) provide insight into the financial attractiveness of the opportunities, the overall emissions abatement potential, and the sensitivity of these investments to the key levers of carbon pricing and investor discount rates. This approach identifies low-cost ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while acknowledging the political and financial barriers to adoption; a perspective which we believe is of interest to the wastewater industry and all stakeholders in the climate change debate, including non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, academics, and policy makers.

"At Xylem, we look forward to working with colleagues in the water sector and across industries, with academics and innovators, NGOs and the financial community to develop new ideas and creative partnerships to advance adoption of these and other sustainable solutions. We hope you’ll join us." - Patrick Decker, President and CEO, Xylem

"The challenges of climate change, resource scarcity and economic development for a growing population are coming into sharp focus as we look to the next era. It is incumbent on us—individuals, organizations, cities, countries—to find and implement smart solutions. Water infrastructure is at the center of these intersecting challenges and presents a compelling opportunity to advance both the global mitigation and adaptation agendas.”

Patrick Decker, President and CEO, Xylem Inc.

Read more: A Climate-Change Policy that Pays for Itself 

Upgrading wastewater infrastructure holds immense environmental benefits

Almost 50% of electricity-related emissions from the wastewater sector in the U.S., Europe, and China can be abated with existing technologies.

Nearly all of this abatement (95%) can be achieved at zero or negative cost.

This translates to a potential global abatement volume at negative cost of nearly 44 Mt CO2e—the equivalent of 9.7 billion gallons of gasoline—annually. (Source: EPA)

Solutions already exist

We don‘t need to wait for new technology or even the highly debated carbon pricing scenarios.

Achieving this significant emissions abatement will be aided by new approaches to public and private financing that incentivizes the adoption of high-efficiency technology for upgrades and replacement, as well as new wastewater infrastructure, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries.

Taking action means the ability to invest in the future

The OECD estimates that US$ 1.3 trillion needs to be invested annually to replace and maintain water infrastructure in developed countries and emerging markets.

By investing in these abatement opportunities today, we not only will reduce emissions, but will also free up new capital that can be used to fund badly needed water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades around the world.