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  • Writer's pictureTamar Makov

Bottled Water vs. Water Fountains: Environmental Impacts

Growing consumption of single-use bottled water has received criticism due to potentially adverse environmental outcomes. Networks of public-sphere water delivery stations have been proposed as a sustainable alternative for water consumption on-the-go, yet the life-cycle impacts of such stations are poorly understood. Here we evaluate the potential cumulative energy demand and climate change impacts of water delivered from a filtered water refill station under various consumption scenarios and provide a comparison to published results for bottled water.

Using a hybrid life-cycle analysis framework employing physical and economic data, we model the water station’s performance in four locations: Tel-Aviv, Israel; Miami Beach, Florida, USA; London, UK; and Shanghai, China. We find that the climate change impact of the station is two to six times lower than those of bottled water and that use phase electricity is the most influential factor in determining the station’s environmental impact. We provide additional observations related to scaling up such a system and recommendations to realize further gains in eco-efficiency.

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Fig. 2. Woosh station per liter CED and GHG emissions as a function of water volume consumed daily for cooled (panels a,c) and room temperature (panels b,d) scenarios. In the CED cases (panels a,b) the colored layers represent each component’s contribution to overall energy demand in ascending order. In the GHG cases (panels c,d) the gray area represents GHG emissions range when connecting to various electricity grids with different GHG efficiency levels (from top tp bottom) – Chinese grid (red), Israeli grid (orange), average US grid (blue) and average EU grid (green). Bottled water’s average GHG emissions per L are shown in gray (harmonized value for non-cooled bottles transported 100 km) in panel d. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

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