Energy issues in sustainable urban wastewater management: Use, demand reduction and recovery in the urban water cycle

Andrea G. Capodaglio, Gustaf Olsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (SciVal)


Urban water systems and, in particular, wastewater treatment facilities are among the major energy consumers at municipal level worldwide. Estimates indicate that on average these facilities alone may require about 1% to 3% of the total electric energy output of a country, representing a significant fraction of municipal energy bills. Specific power consumption of state-of-the-art facilities should range between 20 and 45 kWh per population-equivalent served, per year, even though older plants may have even higher demands. This figure does not include wastewater conveyance (pumping) and residues post-processing. On the other hand, wastewater and its byproducts contain energy in different forms: chemical, thermal and potential. Until very recently, the only form of energy recovery from most facilities consisted of anaerobic post-digestion of process residuals (waste sludge), by which chemical energy methane is obtained as biogas, in amounts generally sufficient to cover about half of plant requirements. Implementation of new technologies may allow more efficient strategies of energy savings and recovery from sewage treatment. Besides wastewater valorization by exploitation of its chemical and thermal energy contents, closure of the wastewater cycle by recovery of the energy content of process residuals could allow significant additional energy recovery and increased greenhouse emissions abatement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number266
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Water Engineering


  • Energy demand
  • Energy recovery
  • GHGs reduction
  • Urban used water cycle
  • Waste sludge
  • Wastewater treatment plant
  • Water-energy nexus


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