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Revising the Role of Groundwater in Life Cycle Assessment


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the standardised method for assessing the environmental impacts of any product or service. After quantifying all associated emissions and the consumption of resources, this impact is expressed with respect to a few common impact categories. These are supposed to reflect major societal and environmental priorities. Although groundwater is the most extracted raw material in the world, and extraordinarily important for most parts of the EU, it is virtually ignored in LCA. To overcome this deficiency, an interdisciplinary approach is needed. The proposed fellowship integrates a hydrogeologist into a prominent group of LCA experts, in order to develop the initial steps for tackling groundwater quality and quantity issues within an LCA framework. The fellow is offered extensive training on LCA concepts to combine the perspectives of both LCA expert and hydrogeologist. The research work includes a general gradation of threats to groundwater and the development of a competent modelling framework. The latter task is dedicated to the improvement and consistent development of modelling tools. This is to enable a balanced simulation of different hydrogeological threats, and to uniformly account for the spatial variability of environmental conditions. A major focus is placed on the issues of whether, and how, groundwater can be considered a safeguard object within impact assessment, assumed that it represents a separate receptor. The scientific results of this project are expected to be fundamental but still incomplete in achieving a generally valid methodology, which complies with the holistic requirements of LCA practice. However, it will be a necessary starting point for revealing the principal relationships between LCA and hydrogeology and ultimately defining the research needs in this highly timely subject. For the fellow, the profound thematic and social expertise gained will be ideally suited to a novel and ambitious field of science.

Call for proposal

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Raemistrasse 101
8092 Zuerich

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Stefanie Hellweg (Prof.)
EU contribution
€ 178 927,59