ECAM, the very first holistic tool in the world to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions from urban water services

The very first in the world, the Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) tool enables water utilities to measure and manage their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption at a system-wide level, giving them a tool to enable a transition towards energy and carbon neutrality. By identifying areas to reduce GHG emissions, increase energy savings, and improve overall efficiencies to reduce costs, ECAM offers users a holistic approach for urban water utilities to shift to low energy, low carbon water management.

After all, the water sector can make significant contributions to the Paris agreement target of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, as well as the respective Nationally Determined Contributions, although awareness of this opportunity is currently limited.

“The contribution of the water sector to greenhouse gas emissions is complex and therefore often under-recognised,” Astrid Michels, Project Manager of the Water and Wastewater Companies for Climate Mitigation (WaCCliM) project that developed the ECAM tool, said. “ECAM helps utilities develop an emissions baseline, identify areas of improvement to reduce indirect and direct emissions, and monitor progress over time.”

ECAM is a free and open source tool that has been successfully piloted by utilities in Jordan, Mexico, Peru and Thailand that participate in the WaCCliM project, to achieve dramatic reductions in GHG emissions.

For example, San Francisco del Rincón, Mexico, has achieved almost a 50 per cent reduction of its total GHG emissions compared to the baseline established with ECAM in 2014. This has been achieved through treating more wastewater to reduce methane emissions and improving pumping efficiency. Additional measures have been identified that would lead to a reduction of 65 per cent in total emissions.

On the other hand, Cusco, in Peru, has saved 5,300 t CO2 emissions per year, representing 20 per cent of its total carbon emissions. A total GHG reduction potential of 30 per cent has been identified through greater pumping efficiency and wastewater reuse.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, the ECAM was used to establish a baseline for municipal wastewater treatment and identify a 12 per cent GHG reduction potential. 

Madaba, Jordan joined WaCCliM in 2016, and is now using ECAM to assess its carbon footprint to unlock financing for low carbon water and wastewater infrastructure to help meet its GHG reduction potential.

In addition to the pilots, utilities in over 20 cities have now used the ECAM tool to assess and drive GHG reductions. ECAM was recently endorsed by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group as a means to empower cities around the world to measure the emissions of their urban water, identify and plan reduction measures, and shift to a low-carbon, resilient future.

“As cities and water utilities recognise the significant opportunities to reduce GHG emissions, improve service quality, water and energy efficiency in water supply and wastewater treatment, tools like ECAM are helping them to focus on the areas of largest potential impact and economic return,” Ricardo Cepeda-Marquez, Head of the Water & Waste Initiative at C40 CITIES, said.

The C40 Cities organisation is also collaborating on the WaCCliM Project to increase the ambition of cities and water utilities to reduce emissions in the water sector and to contribute towards meeting the Paris Agreement targets.