Until now, few studies had focused on the environmental impact of the construction phase of a drinking water transport and distribution network (DWTDN). Using the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology, this article compares the environmental impact of pipes made of different materials as constructive solutions for the DWTDN. Two pipe diameters (90 and 200 mm) commonly used in small to medium-sized cities are analysed. The results show that polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density PE have similar environmental impacts in the case of 90 mm pipe diameter. In the case of 200 mm pipe diameter, ductile iron (DI) and glass fibre reinforced polyester show higher environmental impacts than HDPE and PVC, which in the case of DI are between 3 and 11 times higher than those of HDPE for all the midpoint impact categories. Regarding the different construction phases, installation has a higher percentage of environmental impact for 90 mm pipe diameter (40-68% for HDPE in all the impact categories) than for 200 mm pipe diameter (24-57% for an HDPE) due to the difference in the amount of material required for the manufacture of the pipe. The assessment methodology was applied to calculate the environmental burdens derived from a case study. The impact of the different elements of the case study network has been added to obtain the global impact. The potential reduction of the environmental impacts of the case study has been calculated substituting the whole actual network by less impacting constructive solutions. A potential reduction of between 6 and 16% of the impact has been found for the case study, although the savings might be greater in networks with greater abundance of more impacting pipe materials such as DI. This methodology allows the improvement of the network and the design of more eco-efficient DWTDN. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Pipe material
- Urban infrastructure