Water companies in Latin America are cutting greenhouse gas emissions

Energy-saving water purification methods in Peru and Mexico are protecting the climate and cutting costs.

Water and sanitation companies are among the largest consumers of energy, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies. They also emit higher levels of greenhouse gases than necessary, and thus harm the climate. Their costs are also needlessly high. This is due in part to obsolete technology and systems. In many cases, there is also a lack of knowledge of how to reuse wastewater and recover energy and nutrients. For example, wastewater can be used to produce biogas or converted into fertiliser.

In Mexico and Peru, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is supporting companies and authorities in modernising the water sector and improving carbon emissions. GIZ is carrying out the project on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). This is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and is supported by the International Water Association.

With GIZ’s support, energy-efficient pumps and other modern technology have been installed at initial sites in Mexico and Peru. This will reduce the energy requirements of the plants and ensure that the water is cleaned more effectively, which is also important for the countries’ carbon footprints: untreated wastewater produces three times the level of greenhouse gas emissions as treated wastewater.

One water and sanitation company in Peru has managed to cut its carbon emissions by 20 per cent already thanks to the project’s various measures. In conjunction with the increased production of biogas, this equates to a reduction of 5,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. In the future, the company also aims to convert the biogas into electricity using cogeneration. This would cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a further 650 tonnes.

The Mexico-based company working with GIZ has almost halved its greenhouse emissions, while doubling the connection rate to the sewage treatment plant. Thanks to more efficient pumps and optimised energy production from biogas, the company has managed to cut its energy costs for wastewater treatment by 25 per cent, despite an additional 52,000 people being connected to the sanitation system.