The application of life cycle assessment (LCA) to wastewater treatment: A best practice guide and critical review

Lluís Corominas, Diana M. Byrne, Jeremy S. Guest, Almudena Hospido, Philippe Roux, Andrew Shaw, Michael D. Short

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Life cycle assessment (LCA) has been widely applied in the wastewater industry, but inconsistencies in assumptions and methods have made it difficult for researchers and practitioners to synthesize results from across studies. This paper presents a critical review of published LCAs related to municipal wastewater management with a focus on developing systematic guidance for researchers and practitioners to conduct LCA studies to inform planning, design, and optimization of wastewater management and infrastructure (wastewater treatment plants, WWTPs; collection and reuse systems; related treatment technologies and policies), and to support the development of new technologies to advance treatment objectives and the sustainability of wastewater management. The paper guides the reader step by step through LCA methodology to make informed decisions on i) the definition of the goal and scope, ii) the selection of the functional unit and system boundaries, iii) the selection of variables to include and their sources to obtain inventories, iv) the selection of impact assessment methods, and v) the selection of an effective approach for data interpretation and communication to decision-makers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116058
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Environmental Impacts
  • Guidelines
  • LCA-Water Working Group
  • Recommendations
  • Sewage
  • WWTP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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