Methane Emissions from Municipal Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems

Cuihong Song, Jun Jie Zhu, John L. Willis, Daniel P. Moore, Mark A. Zondlo, Zhiyong Jason Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Municipal wastewater collection and treatment systems are critical infrastructures, and they are also identified as major sources of anthropogenic CH4 emissions that contribute to climate change. The actual CH4 emissions at the plant- or regional level vary greatly due to site-specific conditions as well as high seasonal and diurnal variations. Here, we conducted the first quantitative analysis of CH4 emissions from different types of sewers and water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). We examined variations in CH4 emissions associated with methods applied in different monitoring campaigns, and identified main CH4 sources and sinks to facilitate carbon emission reduction efforts in the wastewater sector. We found plant-wide CH4 emissions vary by orders of magnitude, from 0.01 to 110 g CH4/m3 with high emissions associated with plants equipped with anaerobic digestion or stabilization ponds. Rising mains show higher dissolved CH4 concentrations than gravity sewers when transporting similar raw sewage under similar environmental conditions, but the latter dominates most collection systems around the world. Using the updated data sets, we estimated annual CH4 emission from the U.S. centralized, municipal wastewater treatment to be approximately 10.9 ± 7.0 MMT CO2-eq/year, which is about twice as the IPCC (2019) Tier 2 estimates (4.3-6.1 MMT CO2-eq/year). Given CH4 emission control will play a crucial role in achieving net zero carbon goals by the midcentury, more studies are needed to profile and mitigate CH4 emissions from the wastewater sector.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2248-2261
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 14 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • IPCC
  • Literature text mining
  • Methane
  • Mitigation strategies
  • Monitoring campaigns
  • Monte Carlo analysis
  • Wastewater treatment


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