The challenge

Climate change

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are driving climate change. Changes in our climate directly impact the availability and quality of water, creating unprecedented challenges for drinking water and wastewater utilities. Water utilities are also a source of global GHG emissions from energy consumption, as well as nitrous oxide and methane emissions in wastewater systems.

The ability of water utilities to take effective climate mitigation action by reducing their GHG emissions is complex. Among other aspects, it relies on an adapted policy framework that incentivises the utility, access to support, right competences to identify and implement improvements, etc. Additionally, having a simple and reliable GHG accounting makes it easier for drinking water and wastewater utilities to report on the progress towards carbon neutrality.

Energy consumption

Drinking water and wastewater companies spend up to 35 percent of their total operational costs on energy. These operating costs can be as high as one-third of a municipality’s energy bill. The water sector is also exposed to the risks and uncertainties associated with future energy fluctuations and prices. These challenges provide a window of opportunity to initiate a paradigm shift towards low-energy, low-carbon and climate resilient urban water services, by adopting energy efficiency measures or generating renewable energy from biogas.


Globally, approximately 80 percent of all wastewater is released into nature untreated. Untreated wastewater pollutes our water sources, and is a missed opportunity to recover water, energy, nutrients, and other precious materials embedded in wastewater. Emissions from untreated sewage represent three times the emissions of conventional wastewater treatments.  Failure to install wastewater treatment negatively affects aquatic biodiversity and elevates health risks and water treatment costs downstream.

A sustained expansion of wastewater treatment, combined with appropriate technologies or concepts, is critical to put us on the path towards carbon neutrality.

Our Services

The WaCCliM project works across local, national and international levels,
and engages with national stakeholders around water utilities in
Jordan, Mexico, Peru and Thailand

WaCCliM aims to:

Build capacity and strengthen public sector institutions and policies

Leverage financial resources for a low carbon climate resilient water sector

Implement scalable projects that measurably reduce GHGs

Disseminate ‘lessons learned’ and promote replication and upscaling of GHG reduction approaches on the national, regional and international levels

At the local level, WaCCliM supports pilot utilities to reduce their carbon footprint through energy consumption reduction, energy and nutrient recovery, water reuse and water loss reduction.  Operational improvements aim to generate spin-off benefits such as direct savings in energy bills as well as other cost and efficiency savings. To achieve this, pilot companies are supported by project experts who conduct baseline studies, options studies and trainings. They also facilitate knowledge exchange between the pilot companies, other utilities and associations.

At the national level, WaCCliM works with policy makers in partner countries to improve the regulatory and policy framework to strengthen public sector institutions and develop policies for financing and implementing climate mitigation measures in the water sector.

At the international level, WaCCliM develops and scales-up knowledge on water and climate mitigation through the Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) tool, the WaCCLiM Catalogue of Solutions, as well as conferences and events. Effective implementation helps advocate for improved financing mechanisms, and political incentives to replicate the successes of pilot utilities in partner countries and elsewhere.

The WaCCliM Roadmap

Emissions from the water sector are typically assessed in a fragmented way under different urban sectors. WaCCliM offers water utilities a roadmap to carbon neutrality, guiding them to increase awareness, assess their situation, identify measures to be implemented, and monitor progress. The Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) Tool is a cornerstone to the roadmap. ECAM evaluates efficiency and accounting for greenhouse gas emissions of the urban drinking water supply and wastewater systems. It allows utilities to identify areas of opportunity for energy efficiency, costs savings and GHG reductions, as well as opportunities for operational and service level improvements.

Using a holistic approach that considers all stages of the urban water cycle – from drinking water supply, to wastewater management and the reuse of reclaimed water – and assessing solutions in a systematic way, the WaCCliM project helps utilities rethink their drinking water and wastewater operating systems to become more efficient, sustainable and resilient.

This allows utilities to simultaneously adopt energy efficiency and climate-smart mitigation measures. Helping utilities reduce overall costs through reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions, they become more resilient to climate change impacts, including water availability and water quality.  Integrating water and climate agendas presents opportunities to unlock climate financing for utilities working hand-in-hand with their cities.

Measures on energy efficiency, water loss reduction, and energy generation from biogas, are being implemented with water utilities in Mexico, Jordan, Peru and Thailand to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficiency

Drinking water and wastewater companies spend up to 35% of their total operational costs on energy. Investing in increased energy efficiency of existing urban water services can reduce electricity related emissions by up to 30 percent with relatively simple measures.

Water efficiency

Reducing water losses, reusing water, using rain water, and conserving water, can all help significantly reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption in existing urban water systems; make urban water systems more resilient to climate change and related water scarcity; and defer the need for new drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Adequate sludge management

Costs associated with sludge management can constitute up to half of the total expenses of wastewater facilities. As the world’s population grows and legal requirements become stricter, these costs may increase overtime. Effective sludge management tackles these challenges by shifting the perspective from waste production to resource recovery of water energy, nutrients and other valuable materials.

Decrease untreated sewage

Globally, approximately 80 percent of wastewater is discharged to the environment untreated, and as much as 95 percent in some low-income countries. In some middle-income countries reducing untreated sewage discharge would reduce one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, while providing public health and wider ecosystem benefits. A massive expansion of wastewater treatment, coupled with sustainable treatment technologies, would put us on the path towards carbon neutrality.

Increase resource recovery

A resource-hungry future urgently requires the water sector to embrace a paradigm shift from simply treating wastewater to seizing resource recovery opportunities. Reusing treated wastewater, recycling nutrients and recovering clean energy, returns organic products, phosphates, nitrogen, biogas, fertilizer, and other resources to the cyclical economy. At the same time, utilities can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Our Impact

WaCCliM helps utilities contribute to national carbon reduction targets agreed under the Nationally Determined Contributions in the Paris international climate agreement.

Anticipated GHG reductions in WaCCliM pilot utilities by 2018

Experience from WaCCliM utilities shows that investing in energy efficiency of existing urban water services can reduce electricity-related emissions by up to 30 percent, using relatively simple measures available to most utilities. This offers financial savings with short pay-back times on the original investment, and a stronger financial situation in the long term.