Carbon accounting in water industry needs further refinement

While water companies are now committed to reporting their carbon emissions, there is still a lack of standardisation and a number of practical obstacles still remain.

James Newton of consultants Mott MacDonald spoke at water industry trade show IWEX on Tuesday about how his company had been working on Anglian Water’s carbon management planning.

He outlined how a useful carbon accounting system had to set boundaries on what should be considered the water company’s emissions.

“We have to define the limits,” he said.

“Do we include the carbon from transporting materials to your site? And what about the carbon emissions from sludge produced by your plant but spread on fields by a farmer?”

Once these limits had been set, it is no easy matter to precisely pin down emissions in the supply chain, he said.

To figure out emissions from a particular piece of equipment, for example, its total weight needed to be calculated, then the weight of each of its constituent materials before you could even begin to calculate its embodied carbon.

The operational carbon could be calculated from the energy used by the equipment, but an accurate accounting system needed to measure the emissions from its installation and created by the fabrication process.

“Contractors are getting better at providing the information on transportation and the diesel used by their plant while installing the equipment, but if you go to the website of any manufacturer at the moment you won’t get the necessary breakdown,” said Mr Newton.

“You might get the total weight of a piece of equipment but you won’t get it by material.

“The supply chain has to catch up with the water companies, we’re hamstrung at the moment.”

Sam Bond

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