Skip Navigation Links
Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management
António Mendes Lopes (editor), Jiazhong Zhang(editor)
António Mendes Lopes (editor)

University of Porto, Portugal


Jiazhong Zhang (editor)

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 710049, China

Fax: +86 29 82668723 Email:

Emergy Assessment of a Wastewater Treatment Pond System in the Lake Victoria Basin

Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management 5(1) (2017) 11--26 | DOI:10.5890/JEAM.2017.03.002

Erik Grönlund$^{1}$; Charlotte Billgren$^{2}$; Karin S. Tonderski$^{3}$; Phillip O. Raburu$^{4}$

$^{1}$ Div. of Ecotechnology, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden

$^{2}$ Dept. of Water and Environmental Studies, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

$^{3}$ IFM, section Biology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

$^{4}$ Dept. of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Eldoret, Eldoret, Kenya

Download Full Text PDF



As part of efforts to reduce the eutrophying load to Lake Victoria, a wastewater treatment system at one of the sugar factories in Kenya was evaluated with the ecosystem ecology method emergy accounting. As a comparison a traditional cost analysis was also performed. The analysis included the local and imported ecosystem services. After preliminary treatment the effluent was discharged into a series of 12 stabilisation ponds. The removal of COD and TSS was high, whereas phosphorus concentrations were reduced by less than 20 %. The monetary costs were dominated by operation and management cost, some of which could probably be reduced by more effective management. The local ecosystem services in emergy terms contributed only 1% (or 1,000 Em$) to the treatment system. Imported ecosystem services in purchased lime contributed more to the treatment system, 22% (or 24,600 Em$). Since the land costs in the area were low, land demanding treatment methods using free local ecosystem services, could be cost effective choices for wastewater management. Ecosystem ecology methods as emergy accountings can guide these choices by revealing the additional contribution of free ecosystem services. Emergy accountings seem to need further clarification regarding differences in micro-/macroeconomic views.


The Swedish Development Agency Sida-SAREC funded this study. The authors are deeply grateful to the Chemelil Sugar Company Ltd, and in particular Mr Owelle, Mr Ambogo and Mr Mireri, for providing economic data and laboratory space for the analyses. Some sincere thanks are directed to Mr Osodo and Mr Odenge for laboratory analyses, and finally to VIRED International for facilitation and practical support. Dr. Johanna Björklund is acknowledged for valuable comments on the manuscript.


  1. [1]  Anonymous (1999), Year book of sugar statistics 1999, Nairobi.
  2. [2]  Almeida, C.M.V.B., Borges Jr, D., Bonilla, S.H. and Giannetti, B.F. (2010), Identifying improvements in water management of buswashing stations in Brazil, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 54, 821-831.
  3. [3]  APHA (1985), Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. 16th ed. American Public Health Association, New York 1268 pp.
  4. [4]  Arias, M.E. and Brown, M.T. (2009), Feasibility of using constructed treatment wetlands for municipal wastewater treatment in the Bogotá Savannah, Colombia, Ecological Engineering 35, 1070-1078.
  5. [5]  Björklund, J., Geber, U. and Rydberg, T. (2001), Emergy analysis of municipal wastewater treatment and generation of electricity by digestion of sewage sludge, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 31, 293-316.
  6. [6]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (1997), Emergy-based indices and ratios to evaluate sustainability: monitoring economies and technology toward environmentally sound innovation, Ecological Engineering 9, 51-69.
  7. [7]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2004), Emergy analysis and environmental accounting. In Encyclopedia of Energy, Volume 2. Elsevier Inc.
  8. [8]  Brown, M.T. and Ulgiati, S. (2010), Updated evaluation of exergy and emergy driving the geobiosphere: A review and refinement of the emergy baseline, Ecological Modelling 221, 2501-2508.
  9. [9]  Buranakarn, V. (1998), Evaluation of recycling and reuse of building materials using the emergy analysis method. Dissertation. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.
  10. [10]  Campbell, D.E., Lu, H.-F., Knox, G.A. and Odum, H.T. (2009), Maximizing empower on a human-dominated planet: The role of exotic Spartina, Ecological Engineering 35, 463-486.
  11. [11]  Campbell, E.T. and Tilley, D.R. (2014), Valuing ecosystem services from Maryland forests using environmental accounting, Ecosystem Services 7, 141-151.
  12. [12]  Chen, B., Chen, Z.M., Zhou, Y., Zhou, J.B. and Chen, G.Q. (2009), Emergy as embodied energy based assessment for local sustainability of a constructed wetland in Beijing, Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 14, 622-635.
  13. [13]  Cohen, M.J. (2003), Systems evaluation of erosion and erosion control in a tropical watershed, Doctoral thesis. University of Florida, Gainesville.
  14. [14]  Crites, R. and Tchobangolous, G. (1998), Small and decentralized wastewater management systems. McGraw-Hill.
  15. [15]  Crul, R.C.M. (1995), Limnology and hydrology of Lake Victoria. Studies and reports in hydrology 53. ISBN: 92-3-103198-8. UNESCO Publ., Paris 79 pp.
  16. [16]  Cuadra, M. and Björklund, J. (2007), Assessment of economic and ecological carrying capacity of agricultural crops in Nicaragua, Ecological Indicators 7, 133-149.
  17. [17]  Cuadra, M. and Rydberg, T. (2006), Emergy evaluation on the production, processing and export of coffee in Nicaragua, Ecological Modelling 196, 421-433.
  18. [18]  de Haas, D.W. (1999), Investigation into a biosupplement for possible reduction of activated sludge production in a system with excess biological phosphorus removal, Water SA 25, 75-83.
  19. [19]  Doherty, S.J., Scatena, F.N. and Odum, H.T. (1997), Emergy evaluation of the Luquillo Experimental Forest and Puerto Rico. Final report to International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
  20. [20]  El Hamouri, B., Rami, A. and Vasel, J.L. (2003), The reasons behind the performance superiority of a high rate algal pond over three facultative ponds in series, Water Science & Technology 48, 269-276.
  21. [21]  Geber, U. and Bjorklund, J. (2002), The relationship between ecosystem services and purchased input in Swedish wastewater treatment systems -- a case study, Ecological Engineering 19, 97-117.
  22. [22]  Grönlund, E., Fröling, M. and Carlman, I. (2015), Donor values in emergy assessment of ecosystem services, Ecological Modelling 306, 101-105.
  23. [23]  Grönlund, E., Hedin, D. and Eriksson, P.-O. (2009), Is Emergy Best Suited for Ecological Economics, Environmental Economics, or with an Economic Context of Its Own?, in: Brown, M.T. (ed.), Emergy Synthesis 5: Theory and Applications of the Emergy Methodology. Proceedings from the Fifth Biennial Emergy Research Conference, Gainesville, Florida, January, 2008. The Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA, pp. 485-490.
  24. [24]  Grönlund, E., Klang, A., Falk, S. and Hanæus, J. (2004), Sustainability of wastewater treatment with microalgae in cold climate, evaluated with emergy and socio-ecological principles, Ecological Engineering 22, 155-174.
  25. [25]  Hecky, R. (1993), The eutrophication of Lake Victoria, The Proceedings of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology 25, 39-48.
  26. [26]  Jørgensen, S.E. (2002), Integration of ecosystem theories - a pattern? 3rd ed. 3nd edition. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
  27. [27]  Jørgensen, S.E. (ed.) (2009), Ecosystem ecology. Academic Press, Amsterdam.
  28. [28]  Jørgensen, S.E., Fath, B.D., Bastianoni, S., Marques, J.C., Müller, F., Nielsen, S.N., Patten, B.C., Tiezzi, E. and Ulanowicz, R.E. (eds.) (2007), A new ecology : systems perspective. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam.
  29. [29]  Knight, R.L. (1995), Wetland systems for wastewater management: implementation, in: Hall, C.A.S. (ed.), Maximum power: the ideas and applications of H.T. Odum. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado.
  30. [30]  Ko, J.-Y., Martin, J., Day, J.W. (2001), Embodied Energy and Emergy Analysis of Wastewater Treatment Using Wetlands, in: Brown, M.T., Brandt-Williams, S., Tilley, D., Ulgiati, S. (eds.), Proceedings from the First Biennial Emergy Analysis Research Conference, Gainesville, Florida, September, 1999. The Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
  31. [31]  Lagerberg, C. (1999), Emergy analysis of the resource use in greenhouse crop production and of the resource basis of the Swedish economy, Dep of Horticulture. Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Alnarp.
  32. [32]  Li, L., Lu, H., Tilley, D.R., Ren, H. and Shen, W. (2013), The maximum empower principle: An invisible hand controlling the selforganizing development of forest plantations in south China, Ecological Indicators 29, 278-292.
  33. [33]  Lu, H.-F., Campbell, D.E., Li, Z.-A. and Ren, H. (2006), Emergy synthesis of an agro-forest restoration system in lower subtropical China, Ecological Engineering 27, 175-192.
  34. [34]  Nelson, M., Odum, H.T., Brown, M.T. and Alling, A. (2001), "Living off the land": resource efficiency of wetland wastewater treatment, Advances in Space Research 27, 1547-1556.
  35. [35]  Odum, H.T. (1983), Systems ecology: An introduction. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  36. [36]  Odum, H.T. (1984), Energy Analysis of the Environmental Role in Agriculture, in: Stanhill, G. (ed.), Energy and Agriculture. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
  37. [37]  Odum, H.T. (1994), Ecological and general systems - an introduction to systems ecology. Univ. Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO, USA 644 pp.
  38. [38]  Odum, H.T. (1996), Environmental accounting. Emergy and environmental decision making. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  39. [39]  Odum, H.T. (2000), Folio #2 Emergy of Global Processes, Draft version for comment ed. Center for Environmental Policy, Envrionmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA.
  40. [40]  Odum, H.T. (2007), Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy. Columbia University Press, New York.
  41. [41]  Odum, H.T. and Arding, J.E. (1991), Emergy analysis of shrimp mariculture in Equador. Gainesville, USA.
  42. [42]  Odum, H.T., Brown, M.T. and Brandt-Williams, S. (2000), Folio #1. Introduction and Global Budget. Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA.
  43. [43]  Pritchard Jr., L., Folke, C. and Gunderson, L. (2000), Valuation of ecosystem services in institutional context, Ecosystems 3, 36-40.
  44. [44]  Pulselli, F.M., Coscieme, L. and Bastianoni, S. (2011), Ecosystem services as a counterpart of emergy flows to ecosystems, Ecological Modelling 222, 2924-2928.
  45. [45]  Rotolo, G.C., Rydberg, T., Lieblein, G. and Francis, C. (2007), Emergy evaluation of grazing cattle in Argentina’s Pampas, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 119, 383-395.
  46. [46]  Rydberg, T. and Haden, A.C. (2006), Emergy evaluations of Denmark and Danish agriculture: Assessing the influence of changing resource availability on the organization of agriculture and society, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 117, 145-158.
  47. [47]  Shao, L. and Chen, G.Q. (2015), Embodied water accounting and renewability assessment for ecological wastewater treatment, Journal of Cleaner Production 112, 4628-4635.
  48. [48]  Shao, L., Chen, G.Q., Hayat, T. and Alsaedi, A. (2014), Systems ecological accounting for wastewater treatment engineering: Method, indicator and application, Ecological Indicators 47, 32-42.
  49. [49]  Siracusa, G. and La Rosa, A.D. (2006), Design of a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment in a Sicilian town and environmental evaluation using the emergy analysis, Ecological Modelling 197, 490-497.
  50. [50]  Tilley, D.R. and Swank, W.T. (2003), EMERGY-based environmental systems assessment of a multi-purpose temperate mixed-forest watershed of the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA, Journal of Environmental Management 69, 213-227.
  51. [51]  Ulgiati, S. and Brown, M.T. (2001), Emergy Accounting of Human-Dominated, Large-Scale Ecosystems, in: Jorgensen, S.E. (ed.), Thermodynamics and Ecological Models. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton.
  52. [52]  Vassallo, P., Paoli, C. and Fabiano, M. (2009), Emergy required for the complete treatment of municipal wastewater, Ecological Engineering 35, 687-694.
  53. [53]  Worster, D. (1994), Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas. Cambridge University Press.
  54. [54]  Zhang, X., Wei, Y., Li, M., Deng, S., Wu, J., Zhang, Y. and Xiao, H. (2014), Emergy evaluation of an integrated livestock wastewater treatment system, Resources, Conservation and Recycling 92, 95-107.
  55. [55]  Zhang, X., Wei, Y., Pan, H., Xiao, H., Wu, J. and Zhang, Y. (2015), The comparison of performances of a sewage treatment system before and after implementing the cleaner production measure, Journal of Cleaner Production 91, 216-228.
  56. [56]  Zhou, J.B., Jiang, M.M., Chen, B. and Chen, G.Q. (2009), Emergy evaluations for constructed wetland and conventional wastewater treatments, Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 14, 1781-1789.