The connection between climate change and water has traditionally focused on the inevitable impacts: droughts, inland flooding, sea-level rise. Increasingly, however, we’re also discussing the role that the water sector can play in mitigating the crisis, and as Jacobs Global Water Director, it’s a topic that I’ve had a renewed focus on in recent weeks.
On Earth Day last month we launched our updated Climate Action Plan at Jacobs which sets out a series of bold climate commitments, including achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain by 2040, and maintaining carbon neutrality status and 100% low-carbon electricity for our operations.
The fact that we are the first consultancy organization to have had these commitments approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) demonstrates our industry-leading position in the battle against climate change, and I’m committed to furthering that leadership role in the water sector.
I’m already incredibly proud of the work we have undertaken to support our water sector clients with their journey to net-zero and I’m delighted that these efforts are being recognized at this year’s Global Water Awards. Jacobs has been shortlisted in the Net Zero Carbon Champion category, which recognizes companies whose products and services have done the most to reduce the carbon emissions of their customers.
The total carbon footprint of the global water sector has yet to be accurately calculated, although research conducted by Global Water Intelligence suggests that the sector’s energy usage alone accounts for 1.2% of global emissions. Add in other sources such as methane and nitrous oxide emissions at wastewater treatment plants, and the sector’s contribution could be over 10%.
“As a trusted partner to our utility clients, it's our responsibility at Jacobs to identify technologies and solutions that align with their net zero commitments – and to encourage our peers in the supply chain to adopt similar practices. As part of our new Climate Action Plan, we’ve committed that 65% of our suppliers by spend (covering purchased goods and services) will have science-based targets by 2025.”
At Jacobs, we’ve shown that significant reductions in these emissions can be realized through technology and innovation, from the adoption of energy-efficient treatment processes to renewable energy generation using biogas. Here are some examples:
- We were recently selected by Singapore PUB to design new greasy waste and food waste treatment facilities to maximize electricity generation at the Changi Water Reclamation Plant and reduce the facility’s carbon footprint.
- We partnered with VCS Denmark to achieve carbon neutrality and energy independence at its Ejby Mølle WRRF. The plant now generates more than 150% of its energy demand by adopting sidestream and mainstream assisted deammonification capabilities.
- We designed and built a cogeneration facility that produces all the power necessary to meet the daily average demands of the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility in the City of San José, California.
- We partnered with Yarra Valley Water, Australia to explore sustainable hydrogen production at its Aurora wastewater treatment plant.
- Jacobs is working with the U.K. government to develop a saltmarsh code that will contribute to net-zero ambitions by sequestering “blue carbon” in coastal wetlands.
- We established our Net Zero Labs program to support our clients, recognizing that there are many different strategies and approaches to achieve net-zero outcomes.
In addition to supporting our clients, we’re also working closely with our global network of technology partners and suppliers to reduce carbon emissions. I’ll be joining a panel discussion at the Global Water Summit in Madrid on May 18, titled Leading the Race to Zero, which will explore how we can reduce the carbon footprint of the water industry’s supply chain.
As a trusted partner to our utility clients, it's our responsibility at Jacobs to identify technologies and solutions that align with their net zero commitments – and to encourage our peers in the supply chain to adopt similar practices. As part of our new Climate Action Plan, we’ve committed that 65% of our suppliers by spend (covering purchased goods and services) will have science-based targets by 2025.
The good news is that collaboration around water’s journey to net-zero is already happening. Jacobs is proud to support the US Water Alliance’s Net Zero Plus call to action, the first sector-wide commitment to achieve net-zero in the U.S. water sector by 2050. I was honored to join a team of over 35 water sector stakeholders to help formulate this collaborative vision, which also enshrines a One Water approach as an urgent priority. Similarly, the U.K. water sector has developed its own 2030 Net Zero route map.
While those of us who work in the water sector will understandably be directing much of our efforts towards droughts, floods and other climate change impacts in the years to come, our potential contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions should not be overlooked. By collaborating with our utility partners and other industry stakeholders, I am confident that we can significantly reduce the water sector’s carbon footprint and I look forward to discussing these strategies at the Global Water Summit this month.
About the author
As Jacobs Global Water Market Director, Susan Moisio leads our team of more than 9,000 visionaries and doers to develop innovative, sustainable and comprehensive solutions for tomorrow.
Susan and the team of technologists she leads are committed to providing clients world-leading technical and environmental expertise to address complex challenges across drinking water, wastewater, desalination, conveyance and flood control challenges with Jacobs’ OneWater approach to water management.
Named one of the top 40 influencers in the water industry by Global Water Intelligence (GWI), Susan is also the go-to person for wet weather and conveyance solutions. She works tirelessly to share her expertise as a mentor within Jacobs as well as by giving back to the water industry.
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