Comparative life cycle sustainability assessment of urban water reuse at various centralization scales

  • Tamar Opher
  • Eran Friedler
  • Aviad Shapira



Population growth and urbanization lead to increasing water demand, putting significant pressure on natural water sources. The rising amounts of domestic wastewater (WW) in urban areas may be treated to serve as an alternative water source that may alleviate this pressure. This study examines sustainability of utilizing reclaimed domestic wastewater in urban households for toilet flushing and garden irrigation. It models a city characterized by water scarcity, using a coal-based electricity mix.


Four approaches were compared: (0) Business-as-usual (BAU) alternative, where the central WW treatment plant effluent is discharged to nature; (1) central WW treatment and urban reuse of the effluent produced; (2) semi-distributed greywater treatment and reuse, at cluster scale; (3) Distributed greywater treatment and reuse, at building scale. Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA), social LCA (S-LCA), and life cycle costing (LCC) were applied to the system model of the above scenarios, with seawater desalination as the source for potable water. System boundaries include water supply, WW collection, and treatment facilities. Analytical hierarchy process (AHP), a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) methodology, was integrated into the life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) framework as a means for weighting sustainability criteria through judgment elicitation from a panel of 20 experts.

Results and discussion

Environmentally and socially, the two distributed alternatives perform better in most impact categories. Socially, semi-distributed (cluster scale) reuse is somewhat advantageous over the fully distributed alternative (building scale), due to the benefits of community engagement. Economically, the cluster-level scenario is the most preferable, while the building-scale scenario is the least preferable. A hierarchical representation of the problem’s criteria was constructed, according to the principals of AHP. Each criterion was weighted and those of extreme low importance were eliminated, while maintaining the integrity of the experts’ judgments. Weighted and aggregated sustainability scores revealed that cluster level reclamation, under modeled conditions, is the most sustainable option and the BAU scenario is the least sustainable. The other two alternatives, centralized and fully distributed reclamation, obtained similar intermediate scores.


Distributed urban water reuse was found to be more sustainable than current practice. Different alternative solutions are advantageous in different ways, but overall, the reclamation and reuse of greywater at the cluster level seems to be the best option among the three reuse options examined in this assessment. AHP proved an effective method for aggregating the multiple sustainability criteria. The hierarchical view maintains transparency of all local weights while leading to the final weight vector.


AHP Clustering Distributed reuse Greywater LCA LCSA MCDA Non-potable S-LCA Wastewater 



Analytical hierarchy process


Business as usual


Consistency ratio


End of life


Functional unit




Life cycle assessment


Life cycle costing


Life cycle sustainability assessment


Life cycle thinking


Multi-criteria decision analysis


Operation and maintenance


Potable water


Rotating biological contactor


Reclaimed water


Social life cycle assessment


Sea water desalination




Wastewater treatment plant



We are very grateful to the anonymous experts who took part in this study, contributing their time and expertise.


This study was partially funded by the Israel Water Authority, under grant 4422444402.

Supplementary material

11367_2018_1469_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (519 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 518 kb)


  1. Alfiya Y, Gross A, Sklarz M, Friedler E (2013) Reliability of onsite greywater treatment systems in Mediterranean and arid environments—a case study. WWPR 2012 - Wastewater Purification and Reuse. CreteGoogle Scholar
  2. Almeida MC, Butler D, Friedler E (1999) At-source domestic wastewater quality. Urban Water J 1:49–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arpke A, Hutzler N (2005) Operational life-cycle assessment and life-cycle cost analysis for water use in multioccupant buildings. J Archit Eng 11(3):99–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arpke A, Hutzler N (2006) Domestic water use in the United States: a life-cycle approach. J Ind Ecol 10(1–2):169–184Google Scholar
  5. Asano T, Burton FL, Leverenz HL, Tsuchihashi R, Tchobanoglous G (2007) Water reuse: issues, technologies and applications. ISBN-I3: 978-0–-7-145927-3. USA, Metcalf & Eddy Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Bachmann TM (2013) Towards life cycle sustainability assessment: drawing on the NEEDS project’s total cost and multi-criteria decision analysis ranking methods. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(9):1698–1709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Basurko OC, Mesbahi E (2014) Methodology for the sustainability assessment of marine technologies. J Clean Prod 68:155–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cinelli M, Coles SR, Kirwan K (2014) Analysis of the potentials of multi criteria decision analysis methods to conduct sustainability assessment. Ecol Indic 46:138–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. De Felice F, Campagiorni F, Petrillo A (2013) Economic and environmental evaluation via an integrated method based on LCA and MCDA. Procedia-Social and Behav Sci 99:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Luca AI, Iofrida N, Leskinen P, Stillitano T, Falcone G, Strano A, Gulisano G (2017) Life cycle tools combined with multi-criteria and participatory methods for agricultural sustainability: insights from a systematic and critical review. Sci Total Environ 595:352–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Luca AI, Iofrida N, Strano A, Falcone G, Gulisano G (2015) Social life cycle assessment and participatory approaches: a methodological proposal applied to citrus farming in southern Italy. Integr Environ Assess Manage 11(3):383–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diaper C, Dixon A, Butler D, Fewkes A, Parsons SA, Strathern M, Stephenson T, Strutt J (2001) Small scale water recycling systems—risk assessment and modelling. Water Sci Technol 43(10):83–90Google Scholar
  13. Domingues AR, Marques P, Garcia R, Freire F, Dias LC (2015) Applying multi-criteria decision analysis to the life-cycle assessment of vehicles. J Clean Prod 107:749–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Friedler E (2008) The water saving potential and the socio-economic feasibility of greywater reuse within the urban sector—Israel as a case study. Int J Environ Stud 65(1):57–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Friedler E, Butler D, Alfiya Y (2013) Wastewater composition. In: Larsen TA, Udert KM, Lienert J (eds) Source separation and decentralization for wastewater management. IWA publishing, London, pp 241–258Google Scholar
  16. Friedler E, Hadary M (2006) Economic feasibility of on-site greywater reuse in multi-storey buildings. Desalination 190:221–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gross A, Maimon A, Alfiya Y, Friedler E (2015) Greywater reuse. 978-1-822-5504-1. CRC Press, Florida, USAGoogle Scholar
  18. Høibye L, Clauson-Kaas J, Wenzel H, Larsen HF, Jacobsen BN, Dalgaard O (2008) Sustainability assessment of advanced wastewater treatment technologies. Water Sci Technol 58(5):963–968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hospido A, Moreira M, Feijoo G (2008) A comparison of municipal wastewater treatment plants for big centres of population in Galicia (Spain). Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(1):57–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. IEC (2015) Uniform electricity tariffs for low voltage supply. Valid from Sept 13, 2015, Israel electric corporation (Hebrew)Google Scholar
  21. Klöpffer W (2008) Life cycle sustainability assessment of products. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(2):89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Machado PA, Urbano L, Brito A, Janknecht P, Rodríguez JJ, Nogueira R (2006) Life cycle assessment of wastewater treatment options for small and decentralized communities: energy-saving systems versus activated sludge. 10th International Conference on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control. Lisbon, Portugal, pp 1203–1214Google Scholar
  23. Makropoulos CK, Butler D (2010) Distributed water infrastructure for sustainable communities. Water Resour Manag 24:2795–2816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Muñoz I, Milà-i-Canals L, Fernández-Alba AR (2010) Life cycle assessment of water supply plans in Mediterranean Spain. The Ebro River transfer versus the AGUA Programme. J Ind Ecol 14(6):902–918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Murtagh F (1983) A survey of recent advances in hierarchical clustering algorithms. Comput J 26(4):354–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nzila C, Dewulf J, Spanjers H, Tuigong D, Kiriamiti H, van Langenhove H (2012) Multi criteria sustainability assessment of biogas production in Kenya. Appl Energ 93(0):496–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Opher T, Friedler E (2016) Comparative LCA of decentralized wastewater treatment alternatives for non-potable urban reuse. J Environ Manag 182:464–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Opher T, Shapira A, Friedler E (2017) A comparative social life cycle assessment of urban domestic water reuse alternatives. Int J Life Cycle Assess doi:
  29. Ortiz M, Raluy RG, Serra L (2007) Life cycle assessment of water treatment technologies: wastewater and water-reuse in a small town. Desalination 204(1–3):121–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pasqualino JC, Meneses M, Abella M, Castells F (2009) LCA as a decision support tool for the environmental improvement of the operation of a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Environ Sci Technol 43(9):3300–3307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Prado-Lopez V, Seager T, Chester M, Laurin L, Bernardo M, Tylock S (2014) Stochastic multi-attribute analysis (SMAA) as an interpretation method for comparative life-cycle assessment (LCA). Int J Life Cycle Assess 19(2):405–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Recchia L, Boncinelli P, Cini E, Vieri M, Pegna FG, Sarri D (2011). Green energy and technology multicriteria analysis and LCA techniques with applications to agro-engineering problems. 978-0-85729-703-7 (print) 978-0-85729-704-4 (online). London, SpringerGoogle Scholar
  33. Rygaard M, Godskesen B, Jørgensen C, Hoffmann B (2014) Holistic assessment of a secondary water supply for a new development in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sci Total Environ 497–498(0):430–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Saaty TL (1980). The analytic hierarcy process. N.Y., McGraw-Hill Book Co.Google Scholar
  35. Saaty TL (1990) How to make a decision: the analytic hierarchy process. Eur J Oper Res 48(1):9–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Saaty TL, Vargas LG (1982) The logic of priorities—applications in business, energy, health and transportation. Springer Science + Business Media, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Saaty TL, Vargas LG (2012). International series in operations research & management science models, methods, concepts & applications of the analytic hierarchy process. Second New York, Springer Science+Business MediaGoogle Scholar
  38. Shapira A, Simcha M (2009) AHP-based weighting of factors affecting safety on construction sites with tower cranes. J Constr Eng Manag 135(4):307–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sharma AK, Grant AL, Grant T, Pamminger F, Opray L (2009) Environmental and economic assessment of urban water services for a greenfield development. Environ Eng Sci 26(5):921–934CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stokes JR, Horvath A (2009) Energy and air emission effects of water supply. Environ Sci Technol 43:2680–2687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Suh Y-J, Rousseaux P (2002) An LCA of alternative wastewater sludge treatment scenarios. Resour Conserv Recycl 35(3):191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. UNEP/SETAC (2011) Towards a life cycle sustainability assessment. Making informed choices on products. Life Cycle Initiative, United Nations Environment Programme, Paris, United Nations Environment Programme, pp. 86Google Scholar
  43. Valdivia S, Ugaya CL, Hildenbrand J, Traverso M, Mazijn B, Sonnemann G (2013) A UNEP/SETAC approach towards a life cycle sustainability assessment—our contribution to Rio+20. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(9):1673–1685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Venkatesh G, Brattebø H (2011) Energy consumption, costs and environmental impacts for urban water cycle services: case study of Oslo (Norway). Energy 36(2):792–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ward JHJ (1963) Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. J Am Stat Assoc 58(301):236–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wolfslehner B, Brüchert F, Fischbach J, Rammer W, Becker G, Lindner M, Lexer M (2012) Exploratory multi-criteria analysis in sustainability impact assessment of forest-wood chains: the example of a regional case study in Baden–Württemberg. Eur J Forest Res 131(1):47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yue W, Cai Y, Rong Q, Cao L, Wang X (2014) A hybrid MCDA-LCA approach for assessing carbon foot-prints and environmental impacts of China’s paper producing industry and printing services. Environ Syst Res 3(1):1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Civil and Environmental EngineeringTechnion – Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations