Environmental assessment of urban wastewater reuse: treatment alternatives and applications.Chemosphere. 2010 Sep; 81(2):266-72.C
The main function of a Wastewater Treatment Plant is to minimize the environmental impact of discharging untreated water into natural water systems. Also a Wastewater Treatment Plant may get a resource from wastewater carrying out a tertiary treatment on the treated wastewater which can be reused in non-potable applications. Water reuse strategies are intended to address the problem of water scarcity without aggravating other environmental problems, thus reflecting the need of their environmental assessment. In this paper we used Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate different disinfection treatments (chlorination plus ultraviolet treatment, ozonation and ozonation plus hydrogen peroxide) and to assess the environmental advantages and drawbacks of urban wastewater reuse in non-potable applications. To do so, we compared the environmental impacts of producing 1m(3) of water for non-potable uses from reclaimed water, potable water and desalinated water sources. The calculation has used current operating data from a Wastewater Treatment Plant located in the Mediterranean area, although the results can be applied to any other plant with similar technology. The ozonation and ozonation plus hydrogen peroxide disinfection treatment technologies have similar environmental profiles. However most of the indicators are about 50% higher than the ultraviolet disinfection except for the acidification (100% higher) and photochemical oxidation (less than 5%). Non-potable uses (both agricultural and urban uses) of reclaimed water have environmental and economical advantages. Reuse of treated wastewater is particularly beneficial when it can replace desalinated water. Consequently, reclaimed water should be promoted for non-potable uses, when there is scarcity of freshwater.