The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Jordi Jaria i Manzano, Nathalie Chalifour and Louis J. Kotzé
Chapter 12: Sustainable sewage
Urban wastewater treatment is an energy intensive process that is typically powered by fossil fuels. Does cleaning up urban waters necessitate such a large carbon footprint? Some leading wastewater treatment facilities are charting a different course with sewage-based renewable energy and a prospect of becoming net renewable energy exporters. Wastewater contains the potential to be a renewable source of energy that simultaneously reduces carbon and energy costs. The biggest source of potential energy is in biosolids in the wastewater, which can be anaerobically digested to make biogas. This chapter will provide three case studies of best practices in reducing the carbon footprint of municipal wastewater treatment facilities, one from Austria and two from the United States. The chapter will describe the innovations made at these facilities and identify several policy drivers that could accelerate this critical transition from fossil fuels to renewable sewage energy.
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