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Amount of water needed to save 1 m3 of water: life cycle assessment of a flow regulator

Berger, Markus; Söchtig, Michael; Weis, Christoph; Finkbeiner, Matthias

Water saving devices in the sanitary equipment, such as flow regulators, are assumed to be environmentally advantageous even though their environmental benefit has never been compared to the environmental burden caused during their production und disposal. Therefore, a life cycle assessment according to ISO 14044 has been conducted to identify and quantify the environmental effects throughout the lifespan of a flow regulator. The analysis comprises the production of materials, manufacturing of components at suppliers, the assembly at NEOPERL®, all transports, savings of water and thermal energy during use as well as waste incineration including energy recovery in the end-of-life stage. Results show that the production of one flow regulator causes 0.12 MJ primary energy demand, a global warming potential of 5.9 g CO2-equivalent, and a water consumption of 30.3 ml. On the other hand, during a use of 10 years, it saves 19,231 MJ primary energy, 1223 kg CO2-equivalent, and avoids a water consumption of 790 l (166,200 l water use). Since local impacts of water consumption are more relevant than volumes, consequences of water consumption have been analyzed using recently developed impact assessment models. Accordingly, the production of a flow regulator causes 8.5 ml freshwater depletion, 1.4 × 10−13 disability adjusted life years, and 4.8 × 10−6 potentially disappeared fractions of species m2 a. Even though avoided environmental impacts resulting from water savings highly depend on the region where the flow regulator is used, the analysis has shown that environmental benefits are at least 15,000 times higher than impacts caused during the production.
Published in: Applied water science, 10.1007/s13201-015-0328-5, Springer