Evaluation of Sustainability of GLWA using LCA and Metabolic Modeling

Students:                Daehyun Ko (Ph.D.)
Collaborators:        Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA)
Faculty:                   Glen T. Daigger 

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) is a large-scale system located in southeast Michigan.  GLWA proves water service to nearly 40 percent and wastewater service to 30 percent of the population of Michigan. Inputs and outputs to the GLWA system include water, treated effluent, and residuals, but also energy, chemicals, and the construction and operation of infrastructure system.

Life cycle analysis (LCA) is an established tool to assess the broad environmental impacts of a system or set of alternatives. It consists of summarizing the inputs and outputs for the system or alternatives, multiplying these inputs and outputs by factors related to their environmental impacts, and then summarizing the results. Thus, metabolic analysis of GLWA as a whole, coupled with LCA, provides a framework to assess these broader environmental impacts. An assessment of these broader environmental impacts would also provide GLWA a basis for identifying opportunities to reduce their broader environmental impacts while continuing to comply with regulations, especially when considering alternative options moving forward.

This research will develop and calibrate a LCA tool for GLWA. It will further use this tool to perform comparative analyses of alternative options to identify improvement opportunities and to evaluate integration of the tool into GLWA’s decision-making processes. 

Research Topic
LCA of Wastewater Management: Inputs (energy and chemicals consumption) and outputs (biosolids from treatment processes, biogas and fertilizer recovered from anaerobic processes, and released pollutants) can be put together and analyzed to assess the overall energy flow and pollutant emission in the GLWA wastewater management system. Based on this Inventory (Life Cycle Inventory) and metabolic analysis of alternative scenario options, LCA can provide the decision-maker with opportunities to reduce their wastewater management system’s environmental impacts.

LCA of Water Management: LCA can assess five drinking water treatment plants’ environmental impacts in the GLWA service area, analyzing the input and output data such as energy consumption, chemicals usage, and sludge production. Based on these LCA results, the operation practice to reduce environmental impacts can be identified.


Figure System Boundary of LCA of GLWA