Water quality standards or carbon reduction: is there a balance?
Article first published online: 8 NOV 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Area © 2011 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
Volume 44, Issue 2, pages 217–225, June 2012
How to Cite
Baleta, H. and McDonnell, R. (2012), Water quality standards or carbon reduction: is there a balance?. Area, 44: 217–225. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01066.x
- Issue published online: 11 MAY 2012
- Article first published online: 8 NOV 2011
- Revised manuscript received 30 August 2011
- water quality standards;
- carbon emissions;
- EU Water Framework Directive;
- UK Climate Change Act;
- private water companies;
- UK water regulation
Currently there is a misalignment between the European Union Water Framework Directive (EU WFD) and the United Kingdom Climate Change Act (UK CCA). This paper explores the tensions and complexities experienced by water companies in England and Wales as they attempt to meet the contradictory legislative requirements. A simple model is used to explore the effect of increasing effluent quality on power consumption and hence carbon emissions. Further data are collected through interviews and textual analysis to dissect opinions and views on the dilemma facing the water industry. In addition to complexities within the EU WFD and UK CCA, water companies are restricted by the regulatory framework of the UK water industry and additional policies and directives. Through this research, numerous suggestions offered by key stakeholders in the industry are explored. Among the proposed solutions is process optimisation of aeration, during activated sludge treatment. This does not require additional changes to legislation and may form one of the principle solutions because it is able to reduce emissions immediately. However, recent research has shown that aeration optimisation may cause increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. This must be taken into account when finding the optimal solution.