A Life Cycle Analysis of Conventional Drinking Water Treatment with and without Biological Filters for Small Systems

EPA Grant Number: FP917780
Title: A Life Cycle Analysis of Conventional Drinking Water Treatment with and without Biological Filters for Small Systems
Investigators: Gilmore Terry, Patricia Leigh
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018
Project Amount: $132,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Drinking water treatment facilities (DWTFs) have been designed to provide safe, reliable drinking water to the communities they serve, yet many small DWTF’s in the U.S. are unable to comply with new standards. They lack the ability to develop, improve and maintain infrastructure that will meet the changing treatment requirements. This research will help gain a better understanding of the sustainability of a DWTF through a Life Cycle Assessment.


A comparative LCA study of conventional surface water DWTF (coagulation/ flocculation/ sedimentation/ rapid media filter (RMF)/ disinfection) with and without the conversion of the RMF to biofilters will be conducted under different water quality scenarios. U.S. EPA Treatment Plant Model Version 2.2 will be applied under different influent water quality parameters and operation temperature ranges to assess the performance of biofilters vs. RMF for multiple scenarios. The second stage of the project is to compare modeling results to pilot level results. A pilot plant at the City of Boulder DWTF will be used as a side-by-side comparison of RMF and biofilter.

Expected Results:

The goal of the research is to facilitate the design of a more sustainable DWTF. The results should allow the growth towards a net reduction of resource requirements and emissions. All DWTF are required to meet the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule (DBP) maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) removal requirements for source waters with a TOC greater than 2 mg/L. By implementing biofilters, disinfection and coagulant dosages could decrease as a result of additional TOC removal obtained by the biofilters.

Supplemental Keywords:

Drinking water treatment facility, biological filtration, life cycle analysis, total organic carbon

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final