The role of climate change and decentralization in urban water services: A dynamic energy-water nexus analysis.

Academic Article


  • Urban water services, including drinking water supply and wastewater treatment, are highly energy dependent, contributing to the challenges described under the water-energy nexus. Both future climate change and decentralized water system adoptions can potentially influence the energy use of the urban water services. However, the trend and the extent of such influences have not been well understood. In this study, a modeling framework was developed to quantify both the separate and the combined influences of climate change and decentralization on the life cycle energy use of the urban water cycle, using the City of Boston, MA as a testbed. Two types of household decentralized systems were considered, the greywater recycling (GWR) systems and the rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. This modeling framework integrates empirical models based on multilinear regression analysis, hydrologic modeling, water balance models, and life cycle assessment to capture the complex interactions among centralized water services, decentralized water system adoptions, and climate parameters for cumulative energy demand (CED) assessment, considering all residential buildings in Boston. It was found that climate change alone will slightly increase the energy use of the centralized systems towards the end of the century, due to the cancelation effect amongst changes in water quality, flow rate, and space and water heating demand. When decentralization is considered alone, we found economically viable decentralized systems may not necessarily produce energy savings. In fact, RWH adoptions may increase energy use. When climate change and decentralization are combined, they will increase the water yield and cost savings of the decentralized systems, while reducing the energy use from the centralized systems. When the centralized systems are further added into the picture, the CED of the entire urban water cycle is projected to increase by 0.9% or 2.3% towards the end of the century under climate change if GWR or RWH systems are adopted by respective cost saving positive buildings.
  • Authors

  • Khalkhali, Masoumeh
  • Dilkina, Bistra
  • Mo, Weiwei
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 1, 2021
  • Published In

  • Water Research  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Cities
  • Climate Change
  • Climate change
  • Cumulative energy demand
  • Decentralized water system adoption
  • Greywater recycling
  • Integrated urban water infrastructure systems
  • Politics
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Water Purification
  • Water Supply
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 34763280
  • Start Page

  • 117830
  • Volume

  • 207