Multi-objective optimization integrated with life cycle assessment for rainwater harvesting systems

Yi Li, Youyi Huang, Quanliang Ye*, Wenlong Zhang, Fangang Meng, Shanxue Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The major limitation of optimization models applied previously for rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems is the systematic evaluation of environmental and human health impacts across all the lifecycle stages. This study integrated life cycle assessment (LCA) into a multi-objective optimization model to optimize the construction areas of green rooftops, porous pavements and green lands in Beijing of China, considering the trade-offs among 24 h-interval RWH volume (QR), stormwater runoff volume control ratio (R), economic cost (EC), and environmental impacts (EI). Eleven life cycle impact indicators were assessed with a functional unit of 10,000 m2 of RWH construction areas. The LCA results showed that green lands performed the smallest lifecycle impacts of all assessment indicators, in contrast, porous pavements showed the largest impact values except Abiotic Depletion Potential (ADP) elements. Based on the standardization results, ADP fossil was chosen as the representative indicator for the calculation of EI objective in multi-objective optimization model due to its largest value in all RWH systems lifecycle. The optimization results for QR, R, EC and EI were 238.80 million m3, 78.5%, 66.68 billion RMB Yuan, and 1.05E + 16 MJ, respectively. After the construction of optimal RWH system, 14.7% of annual domestic water consumption and 78.5% of maximum daily rainfall would be supplied and controlled in Beijing, respectively, which would make a great contribution to reduce the stress of water scarcity and water logging problems. Green lands have been the first choice for RWH in Beijing according to the capacity of rainwater harvesting and less environmental and human impacts. Porous pavements played a good role in water logging alleviation (R for 67.5%), however, did not show a large construction result in this study due to the huge ADP fossil across the lifecycle. Sensitivity analysis revealed the daily maximum precipitation to be key factor for the robustness of the results for three RWH systems construction in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-666
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Life cycle assessment
  • Multi-objective optimization
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Water logging
  • Water scarcity


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