ASTA - A method for multi-criteria evaluation of water supply technologies to Assess the most SusTainable Alternative for Copenhagen

Berit Godskesen*, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen, Martin Rygaard

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Utilities in larger cities have to make complex decisions planning future investments in urban water infrastructure. Changes are driven by physical water stress or political targets for environmental water flows e.g. through the implementation of the European water framework directive. To include these environmental, economic and social sustainability dimensions we introduce a novel multi-criteria assessment method for evaluation of water supply technologies. The method is presented and demonstrated for four alternatives for water supply based on groundwater, rain- & stormwater or seawater developed for augmenting Copenhagen's current groundwater based water supply. To identify the most sustainable technology, we applied rank order distribution weights to a multi-criteria decision analysis to combine the impact assessments of environment, economy and society. The three dimensions were assessed using 1) life-cycle assessment, 2) cost calculations taking operation and maintenance into account and 3) the multi-criteria decision analysis method Analytical hierarchy process. Specialists conducted the life-cycle assessment and cost calculations and the multi-criteria decision analyses were based on a stakeholder workshop gathering stakeholders relevant for the specific case. The workshop reached consensus on three sets of ranked criteria. Each set represented stakeholder perspectives with first priority given to one of the three sustainability dimensions or categories. The workshop reached consensus and when the highest weight was assigned to the environmental dimension of sustainability then the alternative of 'Rain- & stormwater harvesting' was the most sustainable water supply technology; when the highest weight was assigned to the economy or society dimensions then an alternative with 'Groundwater abstraction extended with compensating actions' was considered the most sustainable water supply technology. Across all three sets of ranked weights, the establishment of new well fields is considered the least sustainable alternative.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Pages (from-to)399-408
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Analytical hierarchy process
    • Desalination
    • Economic assessment
    • Freshwater withdrawal impact
    • Groundwater abstraction
    • Life-cycle assessment
    • Multi-criteria decision analysis
    • Rain- and stormwater harvesting
    • Ranked order distribution
    • Water supply


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