Towards climate change sensitive WASH: Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from septic tanks with a focus on Methane

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering


-To assess and compare directly quantified GHG emissions against estimates
-To identify some of the drivers linked to GHG emissions from septic tanks
-To contribute to the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines in methane emissions from domestic wastewater by providing septic tank specific guidelines.
-To propose measures for reducing methane emissions from septic tanks.
The project seeks to understand the actual quantities of GHG emissions from septic tanks to add value to the current estimates. Low-middle income countries have seen a trend of growing numbers of onsite wastewater treatment (Koné and Strauss, 2004), therefore it is important to conduct research in these countries and make countries aware of their GHG contributions to global inventories. Information about the actual GHG emissions can be used to guide future growth of septic tanks and design mitigation pathways.
The research is to be conducted over 12 to 18 months in a low-middle income country (urban area) with several septic tanks in the same geographical location. A portable gas analyser capable of detecting CO2, N2O and CH4 emissions will be used. The research will help to add value to current GHG emissions estimates with a view to designing mitigation strategies regarding methane emissions from septic tanks
The research fits under several EPSRC's themes such as Global uncertainties due to the current lack of accurate GHG emissions inventories in some sectors such as sanitation, and Engineering due to the project trying to fight global warming by source mitigation in the sanitation sector.

Planned Impact

Water-WISER will train a cohort of 50 British research engineers and scientists and equip them to work in challenging environments both in the low-income settings of rapidly growing poor cities and in the changing urban environment of the UK, Europe and other regions with a historic endowment of aging infrastructure. The vision is for a generation of engineers with the skills to deliver the trans-disciplinary innovations needed to ensure that future water, waste and sanitation infrastructure is resilient to the stresses posed by rapid urbanisation, global climate change and increasingly extreme natural and man-made disasters. Our alumni will address the urgent need to re-imagine urban spaces as net contributors to ecological and environmental well-being rather than being net users of vital resources such as energy, nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon. These new leaders will be an essential resource if the UK is to deliver on its commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 6 which calls for universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services, within planetary and local ecological boundaries. This next generation of research engineers will enable UK-based engineering consultancies, manufacturers, and utility companies to grow their share of the expanding global market for water and waste services, for example; in the water services industry from 3% to 10% (an increase of £33 billion per annum) by 2030, and attract significant inward investment.
The research which Water-WISER cohorts enable will form the basis of new innovations in the design and delivery of resilient infrastructure and services. Innovations developed by Water-WISER graduates will inform how growing cities are designed and built in the global south and will be used to inform the re-engineering and replacement of the aging infrastructure on which the UK's water and waste services are currently reliant. Our alumni will form the new generation of leaders who will play a central role in securing a larger share of the international water and waste management consultancy market to UK consultancies. The network of expertise and skills created by Water-WISER will enhance potential for collaborations between major UK players (for example strengthening links between UK consultancy, the Department for International Development, and leading UK water agencies such as WaterAid and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor) and between UK companies and partners in the global south including international investors such as the World Bank, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation. Graduates of Water-WISER will enter industry, academia and development agencies having spent a substantial period (minimum of six months) embedded in an industry or development partner organisation delivering their field-based research. Water-WISER students will thus gain a unique combination of trans-disciplinary training, field experience and cohort networking; they are destined for leadership roles in UK and international engineering and development consultancies, academia, international development banks, international agencies such as the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022066/1 31/05/2019 30/11/2027
2426134 Studentship EP/S022066/1 30/09/2019 31/10/2024 Grace Phiri