2:00pm - 2:20pm
Framework for Evaluating Water Security in Megacities from an Environmental and Socioeconomic Perspective
University of Toronto, Canada
With the abrupt and uncontrolled growth of megacities in the developing world, managing their urbanization process became a daunting challenge for governments and stakeholders, and their capacity to respond to urban water issues has been often exceeded. Water management in megacities has been a recurrent research concern, and urban water (in)security is an emerging topic. To evaluate urban water security in megacities in the developing world and provide valuable insights for future water policies, plans, and projects, this paper develops a framework to assess current water-related issues from a socioeconomic and environmental perspective.
Typically, risk assessments tend focus on a single aspect of urban water sustainability. Instead, this work proposes a critical review and deployment of multiple methodologies to identify the pivotal factors affecting the water security of a megacity. The critical review assesses different risk methodologies that have been used to analyse urban water issues, suggesting further improvements and modifications. The modified methods are then used to develop a framework to evaluate socio-environmental and economic aspects of urban water security. First, the social and environmental aspects are analysed by extending the Water Insecurity Index (WII), originally developed by  (Refer to pdf file). The index is composed of six categories of indicators: capacity, environment, use, access, resources, and climate. Then, the environmental analysis is complemented by a disaster risk assessment to identify flooding and landslides hazard based on geomorphologic, climatic and environmental characteristics. Finally, the economic aspects are assessed by the estimation of direct and intangible economic losses caused by flooding, considering the extent and damage of registered events. This framework was applied in the assessment of a case-study in the megacity of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The results highlighted how water insecurity tends to increase from the core to the outskirts of the city (Figure 1, refer to pdf file), and how this insecurity is highly correlated with average income and education. More than 70% of districts in the lowest income quintiles had a WII higher than Sao Paulo’s average (0.425), compared to less than 5% in the highest quintiles. However, considering vulnerability to urban disasters, the city centre is more prone to flooding, while the outskirts have a greater landslide hazard. Sao Paulo’s centre is located on a flatter terrain with higher population density, whereas the outskirts have lower density and are located on areas of steep slopes. This indicates that the precipitation run-off tends to cause mass movements on the outer parts of the city, and to accumulate on its centre, justifying why the flooding hazard has a tendency of increasing with population density. Considering that a great part of Sao Paulo’s population works in its centre, these districts are expected to have the highest value of direct and intangible economic losses from flooding events. The results emphasize the need for a better management of water runoff both in the outskirts and the centre of Sao Paulo, but also bring out the importance of developing district-based urban policies that tackle the specific and heterogeneous vulnerabilities of each smaller portion of a megacity. Overall, this paper develops a comprehensive analysis of water security in megacities, identifying which neighbourhoods need more attention when different urban water risks are considered, and also lays the groundwork for future studies on how this vulnerability might be affected by future climate and environmental changes.
2:20pm - 2:40pm
An evaluation of alternatives to diesel fuel for use in Canada’s long-haul heavy-duty vehicles
University of Toronto, Canada
This research aims to evaluate promising alternatives to diesel for class 8b heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) in Canada on the basis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and total lifetime costs. These vehicles weighing more than 27 tonnes are responsible for the long-haul movement of freight and contribute disproportionately to Canada’s total heavy-duty vehicle kilometers travelled. A suite of alternatives to diesel including biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric trucks are presently being reviewed. Although electric and hydrogen fuel cell HDVs are appealing in terms of their elimination of tailpipe emissions, their contributions to GHG emission reduction targets are dependent on low-carbon electrical grids and hydrogen sources. Additionally, these technologies require major investments in infrastructure and thus may not yet be economically feasible. On the other hand, natural gas-based fuels may be appealing in terms of lower costs, but their ability to contribute to climate targets is uncertain. Finally, life cycle GHG emissions and costs associated with biofuels vary depending on the specific fuel, geographic location, production method, assumptions surrounding land use change, and vehicle engine design. Promising alternatives to diesel will be selected for further evaluation based on technological state-of-readiness for deployment, and positive results from previous studies that demonstrate promising reductions in GHG emissions without substantial increases in cost. To evaluate potential contributions to Canada’s GHG emission reduction targets, a life cycle assessment (LCA) of each of the selected alternatives will be conducted. Results are primarily being generated through GHGenius, with key parameters updated to cite the most recent and relevant available data for Canada. Preliminary results suggest that renewable natural gas produced through anaerobic digestion, dimethyl ether produced from wood residue and fuel cell vehicles fuelled using hydrogen produced from wood residue are the three most promising technologies for GHG emission reductions. On the other hand, dimethyl ether and Fischer-Tropsch diesel produced from natural gas are not expected to produce any benefits. Lifetime costs including purchase costs, fuel costs and maintenance costs of each alternative will be quantified using data from publicly available resources. Based on results obtained in previous sections, the cost-effectiveness of GHG reductions for each alternative will be calculated (e.g., $/tonne of CO2eq. reduced). Risks/opportunities associated with the adoption of each technology will be identified and discussed, including fuel availability, reliability of LCA results, impact on air quality, potential for future process improvement, and expected fluctuations in cost. The most robust alternatives to diesel (i.e. those that perform well under a variety of scenarios) will be identified, and opportunities for their adoption will be discussed by identifying the set of conditions that make each alternative favourable. This will include, for instance, examining the influence of the GHG intensity of upstream activities (e.g., electricity, natural gas or biomass production) on results, and identifying key thresholds that lead to one alternative being favoured over another. Results from this assessment will help policy-makers and fleet operators determine the most effective ways by which Canada can reduce GHG emissions from its long-haul HDV sector.
2:40pm - 3:00pm
Quantifying the Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation
Colorado State University, United States of America
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently affirmed anthropogenic contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is the primary driver of climate change. Industries historically targeted for the majority of anthropogenic emissions include transportation, electricity generation and food, primarily beef. However, it is possible that a rapidly emerging industry could have a larger impact than those previously targeted. The cannabis industry, prior to medical and recreational legalization, has been recognized for its environmental burdens, but results were largely estimated as industry size was not accurately quantifiable due to illegal, off-the-grid growing practices. With recent legalization of medical and recreational cannabis use in several U.S. states, energy consumption data are now publicly available at an industry scale. This work aims to quantify the environmental impacts of cultivating cannabis bud with initial work focused on the Colorado industry. Foundational work was developed through a detailed process model, capturing the mass and energy required to cultivate cannabis in indoor, greenhouse and outdoor environments. Process model results were combined with life cycle inventory data from Ecoinvent 3.4 and U.S. Life Cycle Inventory database to characterize environmental impacts based on TRACI 2.1. Preliminary work shows that the emissions associated with the indoor and greenhouse cannabis industry in Colorado are larger than other anthropogenic industries currently targeted for significant contributions to climate change. The largest impacts observed from indoor and greenhouse cannabis cultivation are primarily due to high-intensity grow lights and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning requirements associated with simulating plant growth environments indoors. Environmental impact results were significantly reduced when switching cultivation to outdoor practices, reducing the cannabis industry from the largest anthropogenic contributor in Colorado. Future work includes expanding results to include several use phases thereby generating full life cycle assessments, quantifying impacts of the cannabis industry across the United States and outreach efforts to inform cannabis cultivators. Through our research, we have seen that some cannabis cultivators are taking action to improve growing techniques, directed at minimizing their carbon footprint. However, with little environmental impact information publicly available as well as little incentive due to high economic margins, the cannabis industry is expected to continue to be a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
3:00pm - 3:20pm
New Developments in S-ROI
EarthShift Global, United States of America
Sustainable Return on Investment, a method to assess the social, environmental and economic impacts of a decision or investment, has been around for over two decades now. Its adoption has been sporadic and fleeting, even with strong support from the AIChE and the introduction of a LEED pilot credit. Rebranding, from Total Cost Assessment to S-ROI to Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit Analysis has not improved uptake. At the same time, there is strong interest in the Return on Investment of sustainability investments of all types. We have been exploring some of the reasons why the method has had such low adoption rates and working on solutions.
The first aspect of the methodology which has been solved is how to properly assign values to environmental impacts. By first letting go of the need to have a single “right” value and then by encompassing multiple viewpoints in the assessment, environmental impacts can now be assessed in a way that works for all stakeholders. A library of these values, constantly updated, allows us to rapidly assess the outputs of an LCA and/or risk assessment, providing meaningful and useable results.
A second aspect of the methodology which is particularly powerful, yet at the same time is a barrier to adoption is the inclusion of stakeholder input. Stakeholder input is critical to properly assess societal impacts, yet inclusion of stakeholders in the S-ROI discussion may reveal company proprietary information which could put the company at risk. For impact investments, getting stakeholder input is costly and may provide unwelcome answers.
Yet, in many corporate decisions at least, the external stakeholder impacts are minimal or predictable by externally facing experts within the corporation. Most impacts of infrastructure projects such as green roofs, berms and water catchments have predictable economic costs and economic, environmental and social benefits. Impact infrastructure has captured these costs and benefits in a successful tool called AutoCase. While AutoCase won’t capture the benefits of rooftop farms in low income neighborhoods, for the vast majority of projects, most impacts will be captured. Similar to an LCA, this type of assessment requires only a tool with a library of data and an experienced modeler. Costs to complete an assessment are minimal.
Inspired by this example, EarthShift Global recently worked with an aerospace company to develop a new tool to assess corporate efficiency improvements. The types of projects turned out to be ubiquitous: HVAC and boiler replacements, chilled water recycling units, energy efficient lighting installations, etc. One of the key additions to the tool was the inclusion of contingent liabilities, such as the result of an HVAC failure. Productivity impacts, often forgotten in a traditional ROI, can result in an ROI fast enough to meet even the toughest financial requirements.
The next step in the development will be to enable the addition of project-specific contingencies, opportunities or risks. This will allow the user to assess most of the impacts without stakeholder input, yet bring the stakeholders in as needed, add contingencies, and capture new or unexplored features of the investments.