Life cycle assessment of central softening of very hard drinking water

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

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Many consumers prefer softened water due to convenience issues such as avoidance of removing limescale deposits from household appliances and surfaces, and to reduce consumption of cleaning agents and laundry detergents leading to lower household expenses. Even though central softening of drinking water entailed an increased use of energy, sand and chemicals at the waterworks, the distributed and softened drinking water supported a decrease in consumption of energy and chemical agents in the households along with a prolonged service life of household appliances which heat water. This study used Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to quantify the environmental impacts of central softening of drinking water considering both the negative effects at the waterworks and the positive effects imposed by the changed water quality in the households. The LCA modeling considered central softening of drinking water from the initial hardness of the region of study (Copenhagen, Denmark) which is 362 mg/L as CaCO(3) to a final hardness as CaCO(3) of 254 (a softening depth of 108) mg/L or 145 (a softening depth of 217) mg/L. Our study showed that the consumer preference can be met together with reducing the impact on the environment and the resource consumption. Environmental impacts decreased by up to 3 mPET (milli Personal Equivalent Targeted) and the break-even point from where central softening becomes environmentally beneficial was reached at a softening depth of only 22 mg/L as CaCO(3). Both energy-related and chemically related environmental impacts were reduced as well as the consumption of resources. Based on scarcity criteria, nickel was identified as the most problematic non-renewable resource in the system, and savings of up to 8 mPR (milli Person Reserve) were found.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Environmental Management
    Pages (from-to)83-89
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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