Environmental life cycle assessment of water supply in South Africa: The Rosslyn industrial area as a case study
Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) is an environmental management tool, which is increasingly used for decision-support in the South African manufacturing industry, e.g. for cleaner production purposes. The life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase of LCAs evaluates the potential environmental impact profiles of industrial activities throughout the life cycles of products and processes. The LCIA procedure is dependent on a comprehensive life cycle inventory (LCI) of the evaluated life cycle system. Water usage is included in LCIs, and is incorporated in LCIA procedures as direct extraction from available resources. However, the environmental burdens associated with water supply extend beyond extraction and include non-renewable energy use, materials use, land use, and pollution of air, soil and water resources. A LCA study was subsequently undertaken to identify key environmental aspects that should be considered where water is used in the manufacturing sector of South Africa, and to identify possible shortcomings in the LCA tool. It is concluded that the extraction of the required water from nature to supply potable water is in fact the most important consideration, and water-losses in the supply system must receive attention, especially in the municipal-controlled part. Water quality impacts are also important, although through supporting processes, and specifically electricity generation. The boosting requirements attribute most to the electricity dependency of the studied life cycle system. However, a number of data gaps were identified and recommendations are made to improve such future LCA studies in South Africa.
Water SA Vol. 32(2) 2006: pp.249-256