WaCCliM’s ‘Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring’ (ECAM) tool enables water and wastewater utilities to assess their carbon footprint and energy consumption, while revealing areas of improvement. As utilities around the world adopt the tool, WaCCliM has rolled out an advanced upgrade with ECAM 3.0, launched last week.

By identifying areas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy savings and improve overall efficiencies, ECAM offers a holistic approach for urban water utilities to shift to climate-smart water management. It also prepares these utilities for future reporting needs on climate mitigation. Intended for utilities of all sizes and in all countries, the tool is free, open source, and available now on the WaCCliM website.

Utilities do not have to collect any special data or create an account to plug into ECAM. The tool works with the operational data that utility managers and operators use every day. If some data is unavailable, ECAM provides complementary assumptions based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models. WaCCliM has developed ECAM from the start to be consistent with the IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and peer-reviewed literature.

What can utilities do for the climate?

The water sector is estimated to contribute around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide from its electricity consumption and emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from wastewater handling. As cities everywhere grow and urban water demands rise, utilities have to act fast to avoid even higher emissions. Those that succeed can make a significant contribution to national mitigation plans and the global effort against runaway climate change.

For utilities that face this challenge, ECAM is a powerful analytic tool. It allows them to assess energy performance and carbon emissions throughout the urban water cycle, from abstraction and distribution to wastewater treatment and sludge management, adapting to the scope of analysis of each utility. It represents the first step toward a smart and sustainable urban water system with lower emissions and lower vulnerability to the local impacts of climate change. Moreover, it allows users to check and update the equations for accounting greenhouse gases, making users co-protagonists of the tool.

Utilities in more than 20 countries – as geographically diverse as Burkina Faso, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Peru and Zambia, among others – have put ECAM into action. These companies use it to understand emissions at a system-wide level and to evaluate where energy is consumed at each stage, with visualizations and reports allowing them to easily identify opportunities to cut emissions and simultaneously cut costs. It helps them develop scenarios, model reduction impacts of planned or implemented measures, report mitigation achievements, and even develop ideas for bankable projects such as biogas valorization or wastewater reuse.

Finally, WaCCliM is expecting to extend the use of ECAM to support urban water utilities in reducing carbon emissions systematically and strategically to assure business continuity and sustainable and effective water management under a changing climate.

Climate change is impacting a wide range of sectors, with water being one of them. Even though, over 2 billion people live in countries that are already experiencing high water stress [1], by 2050 around 52 % of the world’s population is projected to live in water-stressed regions [2]. Climate change is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions and negatively impact freshwater ecosystems by changing streamflow and water quality [3]. Water stress is not the only challenge brought on by climate change. By 2030, the number of people impacted by floods might double worldwide [4], causing damage to urban water systems. At the same time, water and wastewater utilities contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions coming especially from energy consumption (often by burning fossil fuels), wastewater collection, wastewater treatment, wastewater discharge and sludge management.

Scientific evidence is now pointing at the impacts of climate change on water utilities worldwide. A 10 years scientific study in Norway suggests that extreme weather events contribute to poor raw water quality [5]. Also, impacts in wastewater utilities in countries like New Zealand have been reported to fit in 3 categories: Nuisance flooding spills and odor, water quality deterioration and damage to infrastructure [6]. Climate change will affect water resources generally through increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, shift in the precipitation patterns, changes in snow cover, and the increase in the frequency and intensity of flooding and droughts, which might cause a shortage in urban water supplies and damage to infrastructures [3].These hazards occur with different intensities depending on regional and local variables, which is why urban water utilities need to assess climate risks individually.

A climate risk assessment is the first step for resilient water management, which is a prerequisite for successful climate change adaptation. Once water and wastewater utilities have identified and prioritized their most critical climate risks and critical thresholds, adaptation actions can be implemented to confront climate change impacts. Examples of these measures include: Building traditional or nature-based flood barriers to protect infrastructure, diversifying water supply, wastewater reuse, improving water storage, identifying and repairing water leaks, relocating facilities to higher elevations, among others [7]. International donors and funding mechanisms provide climate funding for adaptation measures. These include among others the Global Environmental Facility, the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund. At the same time, other financial mechanisms such as taxes and subsidies could contribute to financing adaptation measures in urban water utilities.

Climate Risk Management in Indonesia. Photo Credits: GIZ

Restoring and managing natural and artificial ecosystems and water storage systems sustainably could be our best ally for climate adaptation in the water sector. Groundwater aquifers, if sustainably managed, can store excess water and guarantee water provision in times of drought. Jordan for instance, is highly dependent on groundwater resources and faces increasing water demand. This has led to reduced groundwater availability, the salinization of groundwater resources and the collapse of biodiverse natural water reserves such as the Azraq wetland reserve. More than 80% of Jordan is unpopulated due to desert conditions, where annual precipitation falls under 50 millimeters, and yet the country is projected to become drier under climate change [8]. Therefore, in order to safeguard the strategic function of groundwater aquifers for the urban water sector in times of overexploitation, these must be conserved through sustainable water withdrawals and aquifer recharge practices.

Qunli Stormwater Wetland Park in China. Photo credits: Turenscape

Moreover, adaptation measures could include Nature-based Solutions (NbS) which involve protecting, restoring or sustainably managing natural or modified ecosystems to improve resilient water and wastewater management. Common NbS for enhancing raw water availability, quality and protect infrastructure from flooding include among other activities basin and mangrove reforestation, aquifer recharge, urban lagoons, rainwater capture and artificial wetlands. Nature-based Solutions have the potential to address climate resilience challenges while bringing additional multiple benefits such as clean water, clean air, climate regulation, biodiversity, food and water security.

Finally, it is necessary to switch from a response-based action to an anticipatory climate risk planning to avoid reaching critical thresholds where impacts are intolerable. As water and climate change do not have borders and a single actor cannot effectively address complex water issues, cross-sectorial cooperation and a participatory approach are key for climate resilience.

We all depend on a reliable supply of clean drinking water and efficient wastewater systems to sustain our health. Therefore, water and wastewater utilities are key agents and need to ensure business continuity through considering climate risks in their strategic planning, operations and cross-sectorial initiatives.

[1] UN (2018): SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation.
[2] MIT (2014): Predicting the future of global water stress.
[3] IPCC (2014): Freshwater resources. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 229-269.
[4] WRI (2020): The Number of People Affected by Floods Will Double Between 2010 and 2030.
[5] Herrador, B.R.G., De Blasio, B.F., MacDonald, E., Nichols, G., Sudre, B., Vold, L., Semenza, J.C. & Nygård, K., (2015): Analytical studies assessing the association between extreme precipitation or temperature and drinking water-related waterborne infections: a review. Environmental Health, 14(1), pp.1-12.
[6] Hughes, J., Cowper-Heays, K., Olesson, E., Bell, R., & Stroombergen, A. (2020): Impacts and implications of climate change on wastewater systems: A New Zealand perspective. Climate Risk Management, 100262.
[7] EPA (2020): Adaptation actions for water utilities.
[8] World Bank Group (2021). Climate Knowledge Portal. Last accessed on June 7, 2021.

The first system in Peru to produce clean energy from municipal sewage is in the city of Cusco. The water utility – SEDACUSCO decided to use the resources derived from the city´s  sewage treatment – sludge and biogas, to reduce sewage treatment´s energy costs and lessen environmental impacts.

In 2014, SEDACUSCO supported by the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation and the German development cooperation, implemented by GIZ, through the WaCCliM project, started operating an anaerobic digester for treating sludge and producing biogas on a continous basis. In this way, SEDACUSCO attained a steady reduction in the amount of untreated sludge disposed of. In 2020, SEDACUSCO avoided about 7,804 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (t CO2 e/year), equal to 5,574-passenger flights from Lima – Frankfurt – Lima. Meanwhile, the biogas was flared and released into the atmosphere without valorization.

As of March 2021, SEDACUSCO based on the German experience, is pioneering in turning biogas into thermal and electrical energy, that will supply all of the San Jerónimo plant´s electrical need to treat the sewage and become energy – autonomous. The inauguration of this biogas-powered clean energy production system, took place on 25 March, and was attended by the Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation alongside other officials from the Ministry, regional and local governments of Cusco, and SEDACUSCO itself.

With the implementation of this new system, SEDACUSCO will save EUR 260,000 in annual electricity costs and use the biogas avoiding 544 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (t CO2e/year) in addition to the emissions avoided by the sludge treatment.
This initiative is the first of its kind in the country and will serve as an example for other water utilities. A key aspect was SEDACUSCO’s ownership of this new approach – considering sludge as a resource rather than waste; and thus addressing not only its challenges in sludge management, sewage treatment and clean energy generation but also reducing its carbon footprint.

In the future, for scaling up and replicating such initiatives, it will be required to assess the potential if residual sludge (digestate) can be used as an organic compost and surplus produced energy can be exported for usage beyond the plant. Moreover, to leverage financial resources and strenghten capacity to adapt and implement the technology to different country´s contexts. The bottom line is that Peru’s water utilities are moving forward in the carbon neutral transformation of their operations.

Picture in header: The energy production system fuelled with biogas in the city of Cusco ©SEDACUSCO

El primer sistema del Perú que produce energía limpia de los desagües municipales está en la ciudad del Cusco. La empresa de agua – SEDACUSCO apostó por aprovechar los recursos derivados del tratamiento de los desagües de la ciudad – lodos y biogás, para reducir sus costos de energía eléctrica del tratamiento de los desagües y disminuir su impacto en el ambiente.

En el 2014, SEDACUSCO con el apoyo del Ministerio de Vivienda, Construcción y Saneamiento y la cooperación alemana para el desarrollo, implementada por la GIZ, a través del proyecto WaCCliM, inició la operación de un digestor anaerobio para tratar los lodos y producir biogás de forma continua. De esta forma, logró reducir gradualmente la cantidad de lodos sin tratar dispuestos en el terreno, tal es así que para el 2020 logró evitar 7,804 toneladas equivalentes de CO2 anuales (t CO2 e/año), que equivale a los vuelos de 5,574 pasajeros de Lima – Frankfurt – Lima. En tanto que el biogás era quemado y liberado a la atmósfera sin aprovecharse.

A partir de marzo 2021, SEDACUSCO basada en la experiencia alemana, es pionera en el país en convertir el biogás en energía térmica y eléctrica, para abastecer a la planta San Jerónimo de toda la energía que necesita para tratar los desagües y conseguir así autonomía energética. La inauguración de este nuevo sistema – de producción de energía limpia alimentado por biogás, realizado el 25 de marzo, contó con la presencia de la Ministra de Vivienda, Construcción y Saneamiento junto a otras altas autoridades del Ministerio, gobierno regional y gobiernos locales del Cusco así como de SEDACUSCO.

Con la puesta en operación de este nuevo sistema, SEDACUSCO logrará ahorrar EUR 260,000 por gastos anuales de electricidad y aprovechará el biogás evitando 544 toneladas equivalentes de CO2 anuales (t CO2e/año) adicionales a las emisiones evitadas por el tratamiento de lodos.

Esta iniciativa es la primera de su clase en el país y servirá de ejemplo para otras empresas de agua. Un aspecto clave fue la apropiación de SEDACUSCO de este nuevo enfoque – es decir considerar a los lodos como recursos más que desechos; y así abordar no sólo sus desafíos en la gestión de los lodos, el tratamiento de los desagües y la generación de energía limpia sino también reducir su huella de carbono.

En el futuro, para escalar y replicar este tipo de iniciativas, también será necesario analizar el potencial de utilizar los lodos residuales del tratamiento (digestato) como compost orgánico y exportar el exceso de energía producida para su uso más allá de la planta. Además, será necesario apalancar recursos financieros y fortalecer capacidades para adaptar e implementar la tecnología en los diferentes contextos del país. Lo importante es que las empresas de agua del Perú están empezando la transformación carbono neutral de la operación de sus servicios.

Foto en la cabecera: El sistema de producción de energia alimentado por biogás de la ciudad del Cusco ©SEDACUSCO

In the years and decades ahead, water and wastewater utilities can take many different actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what if they don’t? This is not a pessimistic question, but a very important one. Modelling a future with no mitigation actions – business as usual – is an important part of ensuring that actions happen.

That idea is the basis of WaCCliM’s new approach to understanding business-as-usual futures, the Methodology for Establishing Baseline Scenarios in the Urban Water Sector with ECAM.

The approach builds on the Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) tool, a first-of-its-kind online tool that allows water and wastewater utilities to take a holistic approach to reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the urban water cycle. ECAM allows utilities to enter their existing data into the tool and model actions they are considering to estimate the benefits of mitigation. The new baseline methodology goes a step further by identifying how emissions would evolve over time if current management and practices were to continue.

As water flows through an urban water cycle to meet the needs of residents and industry, greenhouse gases are produced indirectly through energy consumption, and often released directly from untreated or poorly treated wastewater. Modelling the unchecked growth of these emissions allows utilities to reveal the benefits of investing in mitigation – which they can do by getting more energy efficient, stopping water losses, better managing wastewater and sludge, or extracting and using biogas, among other possibilities.

Baseline scenarios are far from simple models; projecting past developments into the future requires many parameters and the best available data. Scenarios are based on the physical and biochemical characteristics of the emission pathways in the urban water cycle, with key parameters affected by socio-economic, technological and climatic forces, ranging from the numbers of people expected to move to cities to the composition of their diets. For rapidly growing cities in countries with developing economies, the only certainty with these parameters is that they will not stay static in the years ahead.

Yet it is possible to project them. They can be based on the trends derived from international and national databases, journal publications, reports and policy documents – including the reports and models of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which WaCCliM’s methodology takes as a basis.

There are four steps to the methodology. The first step involves defining the boundaries of the specific urban water cycle to be considered, and the time horizon over which it will be modelled. In the second step, the key parameters and driving factors of the emission trajectory are determined, taking national and global trends into account. The third step is data collection and projection, and for this WaCCliM has developed a custom Excel-based tool, Project ECAM Inputs for GHG Emissions (PEIGE). This generates a projection of business-as-usual conditions in future years that, in the fourth step, can be entered into ECAM’s freely available online interface to compare with alternative scenarios.

The power of this methodology is evident in two initial case studies published by WaCCliM. In Madaba, Jordan, WaCCliM modelled the possible trajectory of the utility Miyahuna’s greenhouse gas emissions under business as usual all the way to 2040. These will be critical years, with population growth, economic development and an influx of refugees widening the gap between water supply and demand in the dry region. The scenarios showed that the direct and indirect greenhouse gases emitted by the utility could increase from around 40,000 tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2016 to nearly 110,000 in 2040, if the utility were to continue with no changes to its operations.

In San Francisco del Rincón in north-central Mexico, unsustainable abstraction, high water losses and inadequate wastewater treatment challenge the two utilities Sistema de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de San Francisco (SAPAF) and Sistema Intermunicipal para los Servicios de Tratamiento y Disposición de Aguas Residuales para los Municipios del Rincón (SITRATA). WaCCliM also modelled the trajectory of these utilities’ business-as-usual emissions to 2040. The scenarios showed that emissions from the water supply system might increase by up to 58%, while emissions from the wastewater system could dip by 8% thanks to a gradually expanding treatment area.

Neither in Madaba nor in San Francisco del Rincón, however, did business proceed as usual. Among other measures, the Jordanian utility has upgraded pumps to more efficient models, already achieving 1,000 tons CO2e mitigation per year despite its fast-growing service area. The Mexican utilities, instead of expanding wastewater treatment gradually, have acted much faster to extend the system from 48% of the city to 80%, achieving mitigation of 2,500 tons CO2e per year.

The effects of actions like these need to be measured against something – and the business-as-usual scenarios are that something. The methodology is an important step towards estimating the reduction of utilities’ carbon footprints, and a strong technical component for further implementation of climate policies, right up to regional and national scales.

How to contribute to global commitments while
achieving sectoral objectives?

Mainstreaming Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) into Peruvian water sector´s strategies and interventions offer a great opportunity to ensuring universal, sustainable and quality access to water and sanitation services, while complying with the Agenda 2030 (SDG 6) and the Paris Climate Agreement.

In this context, the General Directorate of Environmental Affairs (Dirección General de Asuntos Ambientales; DGAA) of the Peruvian Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation (Ministerio de Vivienda, Construcción y Saneamiento; MVCS) has introduced the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plans (Planes de Mitigación y Adaptación al Cambio Climático; PMACC) as planning instruments to face climate change in the water and sanitation utilities´ area of responsibility. To find out on how much progress do utilities have made so far? – regarding the prioritized climate measures – DGAA with the support of the German Development Cooperation and the Swiss Cooperation – SECO, implemented by GIZ, through WaCCLiM and PROAGUA II, carried out an “Assessment on PMACC Implementation´s Extent by utilities under the Peruvian NDCs“.

This assessment report provides information on what adaptation and/or mitigation measures have been implemented so far, highlighting the considerations of co-benefits such as operating costs reduction, operational efficiency and water bodies´ protection. Furthermore, it addresses the main barriers including gaps on capacity development but also opportunities for climate measures´ monitoring and follow-up. These findings will inform to decision makers and practitioners when updating the water-related NDCs under the ongoing process of enhancing NDCs ambition.

What is next?

The findings of the PMACC Implementation´s report will be applied for updating sector´s strategies and interventions, in order to ensure access and quality of water and sanitation services in a context of climate change – recognizing its importance for public health, economic recovery along with environmental and climate protection. Moreover, it will be required to link climate measures with financing mechanisms to support the transition from planning to action. Thus, these findings will also feed the national and regional Water and Sanitation Plans´ updating process, currently under development by the MVCS.

The task is ongoing, and the International Cooperation is seizing the digital transformation´s processes and tools for bringing about its advisory services at the forefront.

¿Cómo contribuir a los compromisos globales y
a la vez alcanzar
los objetivos sectoriales?

La integración de las Contribuciones Determinadas a Nivel Nacional (NDC) en las estrategias e intervenciones sectoriales ofrece una gran oportunidad para asegurar el acceso universal, sostenible y de calidad a los servicios de saneamiento, y a la vez cumplir con la Agenda 2030 (ODS 6) y el Acuerdo Climático de París.

En este contexto, la Dirección General de Asuntos Ambientales (DGAA) del Ministerio de Vivienda, Construcción y Saneamiento (MVCS) del Perú ha introducido los Planes de Mitigación y Adaptación al Cambio Climático (PMACC) como instrumentos de planificación para enfrentar el cambio climático en el ámbito de responsabilidad de las Empresas Prestadoras de Servicios de Saneamiento (EPS). Para conocer ¿cuánto han avanzado las EPS en la implementación de las medidas de adaptación y mitigación priorizadas en los PMACC?, la DGAA, con el apoyo de la cooperación alemana para el desarrollo y la Cooperación Suiza – SECO, implementada por la GIZ, a través de WaCCliM y PROAGUA II, realizó una “Evaluación del nivel de implementación de los PMACC por las EPS en el marco de las NDC del Perú”.

Esta evaluación ha permitido conocer qué tipos de medidas de adaptación y/o mitigación vienen implementando los prestadores de servicios, considerando los cobeneficios de reducción de costos operativos, eficiencia operativa de los sistemas y protección de los cuerpos de agua. De igual forma, la evaluación ha identificado los principales desafíos para su implementación, brechas de capacidades y oportunidades para el monitoreo y seguimiento de las medidas. Toda esta información servirá de insumo para actualizar las NDC del sector saneamiento como parte del proceso en marcha a nivel nacional de incremento de las ambiciones de las NDC.

Próximos pasos

Los resultados del nivel de implementación de los PMACC podrán ser utilizados para actualizar las estrategias e intervenciones sectoriales que permitan asegurar el acceso y la calidad de los servicios de agua y saneamiento en un contexto de cambio climático, reconociendo su importancia para la salud pública, la reactivación económica del país y la protección del ambiente y el clima. Asimismo, será necesario vincular las medidas climáticas a mecanismos de financiamiento que apoyen la transición de la planificación a la acción. Por este motivo, podrán servir como insumo para la actualización de los planes de saneamiento a nivel nacional y regional, proceso iniciado por el MVCS.

El trabajo está en marcha y desarrollar capacidades para lograrlo trae consigo grandes desafíos para la cooperación internacional, que con la ayuda de herramientas digitales busca estar a la vanguardia en sus procesos de asesoramiento.

Job description

The global project ‘Water and Wastewater Companies for Climate Mitigation’ (WaCCliM) cooperates with the partner countries Jordan, Mexico and Peru. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this project as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The objective of WaCCliM is to advise water and wastewater utilities on their way to carbon neutrality and improved climate resilience. By this, the water sectors in the partner countries become climate smarter. The key objectives of the programme are 1) to integrate GHG reduction technologies such as energy efficiency, water loss reduction as well as climate risk analysis into the operations of selected water and wastewater utilities; 2) to improve political and institutional framework conditions for climate protection in the water sector; and to 3) develop capacities for climate protection in the water and wastewater sector.

Job-ID: P1490V1980

Location: Bonn

Assignment period: 11/01/2020 – 04/30/2021

Application deadline: 09/21/2020

Your tasks

This internship presents a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience on how the water sector can contribute to protect our climate and improve climate resilience. The work provides valuable insights into carbon accounting methods for the water industry as well as technology cooperation, policy advice and implementation of measures to reduce GHG emissions in three partner countries. The intern gains insight into challenges and the sensitive issue of communication with and between manifold partners from diverse backgrounds and with varying interests and capacities. Under the supervision of senior team members, the intern will be expected to support the team on a range of functions, including:

  • Support project team in the development of a concept for eLearning for the Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) Tool
  • Update and develop new training materials for face-to-face, partly virtual and online ECAM trainings
  • Research background information and development of material on climate risk analysis for urban water and wastewater utilities
  • Support to the internal and external communication (esp. social media accounts) of the global programme and the activities in the partner countries
  • Assist project team in the preparation, implementation and recording of virtual workshops of the global project team
  • Conduct research on different topics related to urban water management and climate change
  • Support project progress reporting and knowledge management
  • Ad hoc assignments and support to the project team

Your profile

  • At least a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences, development studies, information and communication sciences, or a related discipline and studying at master’s Level
  • Knowledge about climate change mitigation and adaption
  • Strong communication skills, highly proactive and organized, able to communicate effectively and to work in a team
  • Excellent interpersonal and verbal/written communication skills, particularly in written and spoken English and German are required, Spanish skills would be an strong asset
  • Assets would be but are not conditional prerequisites: experiences in media relations, experiences with eLearning formats, working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator/Adobe InDesign, PR, work experience in emerging economies and/or private sector companies


Please be informed that you are only allowed to apply for this internship, if you are currently enrolled as a student or graduated not longer than six months ago from the start of your internship.

GIZ would like to increase the proportion of employees with disability, both in Germany and abroad. Applications from persons with disabilities are most welcome.


GIZ Job Portal

Everyone is talking about digitalisation, and with good reason: digital change is reaching into almost every moment of human life. While the technologies have been arriving decade by decade, the world has never seen anything like the wave of the last few years. In 2018, more than 18 billion devices were connected to the internet, and the number is projected to hit nearly 30 billion by 2023 – which will be more than three devices per person on the planet. Half of these will not be accessed by people at all, but will only talk to other devices.

This is digitalisation: it doesn’t just mean living with digital devices, but living in a digitally determined world. People direct their life stories on social media, order their clothes and meals online, exchange projects with work colleagues on a global scale, and – especially in the locked-down world of 2020 – meet their friends and family over high-definition video streams.

Digitalisation is also changing the way people consume water. Many are switching to smart meters that provide real time data and enable households to make informed decisions on their water consumption. Positive benefits also extend to water utilities; for example, smart meters can detect leakages and reduce the labour costs associated with more traditional metering systems. Smart meters are one example in a range of technological innovations that are now transforming how water utilities operate – from machine learning that helps to predict water shortages and track flood patterns to robotics that improve the effectiveness and safety of tasks prone to human error.

Digitalisation impacts heavily on the environment, however, as billions of short-lived, electrically powered devices communicate with one another and with high-performance cloud services running on perpetually humming server farms. The whirlwind pace of digital expansion has raised fears that it could all be a high-tech emissions engine. Estimates suggest that information and communication technology is responsible for 3.6% of global electricity usage and contributes 1.4% of global emissions.

In other words, digitalisation is not innocent when it comes to the other whirlwind change of the present day: global climate change. To be part of a sustainable, liveable future, digitalisation has to decisively support positive outcomes for the climate and environment. Fortunately, there are many ways in which it can, not least in the water and wastewater sector.

WaCCliM’s Digital Toolbox

WaCCliM is a digitally native project: we connect municipalities and water and wastewater utilities in online exchanges, provide digital tools like ECAM to assess greenhouse gas emissions and prioritise climate mitigation measures, and disseminate effective approaches through our digital knowledge platform, Climate Smart Water. And this is only the beginning of our work to promote digitalisation in the service of mitigation. We have identified a number of digital solutions in our pilot countries that can directly lead to more efficient operation, letting utilities save and recover energy and resources.

In Madaba, Jordan, our partner utility installed energy-efficient pumps with variable frequency drives in April 2019. More than just efficient, these pumps are an important step towards digitalisation in the urban water system. With access to so much powerful operating data, the utility knows the status of its drive system and gains insights for optimising the production and availability of drinking water. Meanwhile, planned vibration monitoring sensors will alert the utility to potential problems, contributing to higher efficiency and longevity of the pumps. They are now investigating other digital options for early detection of water leakages, which will allow for perfectly targeted maintenance across the system before any water is unnecessarily lost.

In Cusco, Peru, our partner utility has embraced digitalisation to more efficiently assess biogas production. Biogas analysers, which are currently being compared and evaluated, will  help to assess and monitor the quality of biogas they are producing from wastewater. These analysers are key components of an efficient biogas recovery system, whereby the methane and nitrous oxide generated from the breakdown of organic matter in wastewater are captured instead of escaping into the atmosphere. With an effective, digitally guided recovery system in place, the utility will power its own operations from these otherwise damaging greenhouse gases.

A Green Agenda for Digitalisation

Sensors and solutions like these are driving green digitalisation. According to a 2015 estimate, then-existing digital solutions had the potential to reduce global emissions by as much as 15% by 2030 – and the solutions are only growing in number.

In the water sector and every sector, digitalisation needs to have a small footprint and use it to create big benefits for the environment and the climate. To ensure this will happen, Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) adopted a Digital Policy Agenda for the Environment in March 2020, with measures that tie together digitalisation and environmental protection.

The Agenda grew out of a pathbreaking process in the autumn of 2019, with more than 200 experts coming together for an environmental workshop. It comprises more than 70 measures to make digitalisation green; many are already under way, others in early development with a promising future. The goal is nothing less than socio-ecological transformation across the areas of mobility, nature conservation, agriculture, water management, “Industry 4.0”, the circular economy and sustainable consumption.

WaCCliM’s ongoing work with digital tools in the urban water sector is well aligned with a significant part of BMU’s plans: the use of digital water management for better services. The Ministry is pursuing solutions to bring the German water management sector more efficient operations, savings and recovery of energy and resources, and digital planning processes for infrastructure. We look forward to bringing these experiences, too, into our global community of practice, and making the rapidly digitalising water sector a significant field of action in climate mitigation.

Frente a la pandemia del COVID-19, los prestadores de servicios de saneamiento del Perú siguen cumpliendo sus responsabilidades de proporcionar servicios de agua y saneamiento seguros y fiables a la población, aunque muchos de ellos tienen que enfrentar recursos insuficientes, escasez de personal e interrupciones en la cadena de suministro de productos químicos y equipos de protección personal,
lo que puede afectar la continuidad del servicio.

En particular, para el caso de las aguas residuales, los prestadores de servicios necesitan adoptar medidas para prevenir la propagación del COVID-19 entre su personal y asegurar la continuidad del tratamiento de las aguas residuales protegiendo el ambiente y el clima. La gestión adecuada de las aguas residuales permitira no sólo abordar la pandemia sino también seguir avanzando en la seguridad del abastecimiento de agua urbano y la reducción de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI).

En la medida que progrese la pandemia, los prestadores de servicios requerirán de medidas para prepararse, responder y recuperarse de la pandemia, y  asegurar la continuidad de los servicios de tratamiento de aguas residuales en situaciones cambiantes.

Como ejemplo,  el prestador de servicios de la ciudad del Cusco (EPS SEDACUSCO), con el apoyo de la Cooperación Suiza – SECO y la cooperación alemana para el desarrollo implementada por la GIZ, a través de PROAGUA II y WaCCLiM, ha elaborado su Plan de Contingencia para enfrentar la Pandemia COVID-19 en la Planta de Tratamiento de Aguas Residuales (PTAR) San Jerónimo, enfocándose en aspectos de protección de la salud del personal, mantenimiento de las operaciones esenciales, mantenimiento de las instalaciones, equipos y suministros esenciales, y la comunicación con los usuarios y las autoridades de gobierno.

En particular, el Plan de Contingencia de la PTAR San Jerónimo analiza los procesos críticos  para asegurar la continuidad de las operaciones ante la escasez de personal; los insumos y materiales críticos para superar las interrupciones en la cadena de suministro , y las estrategias en caso no se puedan ejecutar los servicios y/o contratos críticos.

Este Plan de Contingencia de la PTAR San Jerónimo es parte de una serie de herramientas para que los prestadores de servicios de saneamiento puedan asegurar la continuidad de los servicios frente a la pandemia, beneficiando a miles de peruanos y avanzando hacia una recuperación carbono neutral y resiliente a clima.

Este buen ejemplo de la EPS SEDACUSCO es muy importante para replicar con otros prestadores de servicios del país, que todavía están en proceso de adaptarse para operar los sistemas de tratamiento de aguas residuales frente a la pandemia, y a la vez proteger el ambiente y el clima.