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Benchmarking sustainability of urban water infrastructure systems in China

Dong, Xin, Du, Xinming, Li, Ke, Zeng, Siyu, Bledsoe, Brian P.
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.170 pp. 330-338
air temperature, cities, economic investment, electric energy consumption, engineering, guidelines, infrastructure, rain, sludge, statistical analysis, sustainable development, wastewater treatment, water quality, water supply, China
The broad scope and definition of sustainability has perplexed assessment of water infrastructure systems, especially for the purpose of directing engineering practices when quantified criteria are desired. An input-oriented data envelopment analysis (DEA) was improved to benchmark the relative sustainability of the water infrastructure of 157 cities in China. The DEA calculates a single sustainability score using seven inputs and five outputs that represent the economic, resource and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Overall, 69 out of the 157 sampled systems obtained high sustainability scores. Eight specific efficiency indicators based on individual DEA input to output ratio were evaluated to identify the causes of performance differences. Compared to water supply systems, the performance of wastewater treatment plants has greater influence on the sustainability score of the overall system. For all systems, the sustainability scores are more sensitive to sludge production and electricity consumption than capital investment and removal efficiency of treatment processes. The DEA provides guidelines to cities for setting priorities in order to meet specific sustainability criteria. Statistical analysis indicates that the overall sustainability score primarily depends on the system scale, meteorological conditions such as air temperature and rainfall, and source water quality.