Assessment of Environmental Impacts of an Aging and Stagnating Water Supply Pipeline Network

City of Oslo, 1991–2006


  • G. Venkatesh,

  • Helge Brattebø

G. Venkatesh, Industrial Ecology Program, Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), S.P. Andersensvei 5, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway. Email:


Aging urban infrastructure is a common phenomenon in industrialized countries. The urban water supply pipeline network in the city of Oslo is an example. Even as it faces increasing operational, maintenance, and management challenges, it needs to better its environmental performance by reducing, for instance, the associated greenhouse gas emissions. In this article the authors examine the environmental life cycle performance of Oslo's water supply pipelines by analyzing annual resource consumption and emissions as well as life cycle assessment (LCA) impact potentials over a period of 16 years, taking into account the production/manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, and retirement of pipelines. It is seen that the water supply pipeline network of Oslo has already reached a state of saturation on a per capita basis, that is, it is not expanding any more relative to the population it serves, and the stock is now rapidly aging. This article is part of a total urban water cycle system analysis for Oslo, and analyzes more specifically the environmental impacts from the material flows in the water distribution network, examining six environmental impact categories using the SimaPro (version 7.1.8) software, Ecoinvent database, and the CML 2001 (version 2.04) methodology. The long-term management of stocks calls for a strong focus on cost optimization, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness. Global warming and abiotic depletion emerge as the major impact categories from the water pipeline system, and the largest contribution is from the production and installation phases and the medium-size pipelines in the network.