The latest OA Ambassador Spotlight Blog is here!

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as emphasising the importance of Open Access publishing. 

Ibrahim Muntaqa Tijjani Usman is a Civil Engineering Ph.D. student with degrees in Water and Environmental Engineering, and Irrigation Engineering. His research is particularly focussed on nature-based solutions and the circularity of water. Connect with Ibrahim on LinkedIn!

The journey towards carbon neutrality in water and wastewater treatment is a crucial topic that affects us all. Achieving carbon neutrality is paramount in mitigating climate change. The surplus release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributes to global warming and its catastrophic consequences. Mitigating global warming below 1.50C established the concept of carbon neutrality. As climate change becomes an ever-increasing concern, the water industry is stepping up to reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to a sustainable future. Water and wastewater treatment techniques are key players in this endeavour. The state-of-the-art literature reviews and original research papers on the latter topic can be freely accessed in IWA Publishing’s Open Access journals. In this blog post, we'll explore some key advances in water and wastewater treatment that are propelling us toward carbon neutrality.

Energy Efficiency

Energy consumption is a significant contributor to the carbon footprint of water and wastewater treatment plants. Traditional treatment processes often rely on energy-intensive methods, contributing to carbon emissions. Considering both technical and operational improvements to maximize energy efficiency and minimize the carbon footprint of these processes is necessary. Innovative technologies and practices are emerging to optimize energy usage. From the integration of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to energy recovery from biogas generated during treatment, the technologies help plants reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and, in turn, their carbon emissions.

Carbon Capture and Utilization

Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies have gained momentum in various industries, and they are finding their way into water treatment processes. Hauduc et al. (2018) have outlined how technologies such as High-Rate Activated Sludge (HRAS) are gaining interest in water resources and maximizing carbon capture and utilization. Research by Jiang et al. (2019) has demonstrated how Chemical Enhanced High Rate Activated Sludge (CEHRAS) can improve carbon capture from both black and domestic wastewater. CEHRAS was shown to have a carbon capture efficiency of up to 78.2%. These technologies capture CO2 emissions and convert them into valuable products. Implementing CCU in the water sector not only reduces carbon emissions but also supports product recovery which creates potential revenue streams, thus contributing towards sustainable development.

Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Chemical Usage

Green infrastructure approaches, such as constructed wetlands and natural filtration systems, are being integrated into water treatment processes. These methods require less energy as compared to conventional treatment methods since they mimic nature's purification mechanisms. Embracing green infrastructure will not only aid in reducing carbon emission but also it tends to enhance water quality and promotes biodiversity.

Chemicals play a vital role in water treatment; however, the use of these chemicals has a negative impact on the environment. The water industry is exploring sustainable alternatives to these chemicals and chemical dosage optimization is being employed to minimize environmental impact. A typical example is the use of plant-based coagulants as an alternative or as aids to chemical coagulants for water treatment. Additionally, circular economy principles are being adopted, where the by-products of one process can become inputs for another, in turn reducing waste generation and carbon emissions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML in water and wastewater treatment are game changers since they have the potential to improve efficiency, accuracy, and decision-making. AI and ML usage is resulting in process optimization, maintenance predictions, detection of anomalies, resource efficiency, water quality enhancement and monitoring, and risk assessment and management. ML algorithms are capable of analysing energy consumption patterns and can suggest ways of optimizing energy use in treatment processes, leading to a more sustainable process. AI can uncover insights that might be difficult to identify through traditional methods. These insights can lead to innovative solutions and improvements in treatment processes. AI can assist in monitoring and reporting regulatory compliance by continuously analysing data and generating automated reports for regulatory authorities. The possibility of remote monitoring and control allows experts to oversee operations from a centralized location and respond promptly to changes.

In conclusion, achieving carbon neutrality in water and wastewater treatment is an attainable and imperative goal. The industry's proactive efforts in energy efficiency, carbon capture and utilization, green infrastructure and sustainable chemical usage, and data-driven optimization are propelling us towards a more sustainable water future and to achieving carbon neutrality. While AI and ML are promising, their successful usage requires interdisciplinary collaboration between water experts and data scientists. It is also necessary to ensure data security and privacy. As individuals, organizations, and communities, we must continue supporting and adopting these advancements to secure a cleaner, healthier, and sustainable environment.


Hélène Hauduc, Ahmed Al-Omari, Bernhard Wett, Jose Jimenez, Haydee De Clippeleir, Arifur Rahman, Tanush Wadhawan, Imre Takacs; Colloids, flocculation and carbon capture – a comprehensive plant-wide model. Water Sci Technol 1 January 2019; 79 (1): 15–25.

Haixin Jiang, Xianchun Tang, Yexuan Wen, Yi He, Hongbin Chen; Carbon capture for blackwater: chemical enhanced high-rate activated sludge process. Water Sci Technol 15 October 2019; 80 (8): 1494–1504.

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