Water and sanitation innovations for non-grid solutions – an inter- and transdisciplinary strategic research program

Over the last few decades, the limitations of network based urban water and sanitation systems became increasingly recognized in the academic literature and public policy discourses.  While compelling visions of alternative systems exist that promise to cope with existing and future challenges - climate change, increasing urbanization, aging infrastructures - progress has been slow in practice.

Wings is an inter- and transdisciplinary strategic research program that strives to develop novel non-grid-connected water and sanitation systems that can function as comparable alternatives to network based systems.

Wings bundles the research interests of a substantial number of scientists from different Eawag departments under a common roof with the aim to create synergies and add value to existing Eawag projects. Four research pillars sustain that common roof:

•    Wings-Switzerland
•    Wings-Metropolitan
•    Wings-Emerging Economies
•    Wings-Slums

Each pillar covers a typical socio-technical system configuration and addresses – with different degrees of emphasis – six core modules related to

•    technical system design
•    governance system design
•    system performance
•    system integration and implementation
•    transition management
•    industrial strategies and market introduction.

Transdisciplinary integration
The common approach described by these six core modules ensures integration within and across the four research pillars. Integration within the program is also supported by different overarching transversal projects, which bundle similar conceptual and methodological needs of the four research pillars, thus generating an added value that goes above and beyond the four pillars.

NEST Water Hub
Innovative technologies (e.g. modern, source-separating, and water-saving toilets, local wastewater reactors) suitable for implementation in different socio-economic contexts will be developed and tested at NEST Water Hub.

The strategic program will develop over three research phases and start its first two year Phase I in 2016.

Set Up

Basic set up of the strategic program


Program Management

Dr. Sabine HoffmannGroup Leader, Cluster: CirusTel. +41 58 765 6818Send Mail
Ulrike FeldmannScientific Assistant, Cluster: CirusTel. +41 58 765 5339Send Mail

Program team


Prof. Dr. Max MaurerTel. +41 58 765 5386Send Mail
Prof. Dr. Tove LarsenTel. +41 58 765 5039Send Mail


Dr. Kai UdertTel. +41 58 765 5360Send Mail


Dr. Christoph LüthiDr. Eng. Infrastructure PlanningTel. +41 58 765 5614Send Mail


Prof. Dr. Bernhard TrufferDepartment head, Cluster CirusTel. +41 58 765 5670Send Mail
PD Dr. Heiko GebauerGroup leader: Business Innovation for Sustainable Infrastructure ServicesTel. +41 58 765 5484Send Mail
Ulrike FeldmannScientific Assistant, Cluster: CirusTel. +41 58 765 5339Send Mail
Dr. Judit LienertGroup Leader, Cluster: DA (Decision Analysis)Tel. +41 58 765 5574Send Mail
Dr. Sabine HoffmannGroup Leader, Cluster: CirusTel. +41 58 765 6818Send Mail



The proposal analyzes possible transition pathways in basic services, focusing specifically on the case of Nairobi, Kenya.
In this project, we work with organizations from around the globe to identify factors for managing water kiosks sucessfully
In this project, we collaborate with various organizations to study the role of business innovation in the scaling process of sanitation services.
In this project, we apply Business Model Thinking to create promising business models around innovative water and sanitation technologies


By recovering nutrients from urine, we develop a sanitation system, which produces a valuable fertiliser
We develop reactors for the separate treatment of urine, feces and water directly in the toilet.
Sustainable urban water and wastewater management applied and implemented in the modular NEST building.


The aim is to develop systematic methods for the generation of locally appropriate sanitation system options and for the quantification of sustainability performance indicators
The aim of this project is to gain more insight about sustainable infrastructure management and to develop tools and methods for complex decision making for infrastructure planning.


4S is assessing small-scale sanitation systems in South Asia to provide policy recommendations for improved sanitation system design, implementation and O&M.


Larsen, T. A.; Hoffmann, S.; Lüthi, C.; Truffer, B.; Maurer, M. (2016) Emerging solutions to the water challenges of an urbanizing world, Science, 352(6288), 928-933, doi:10.1126/science.aad8641, Institutional Repository
Reymond, P.; Renggli, S.; Lüthi, C. (2016) Towards sustainable sanitation in an urbanising world, In: Ergen, M. (Eds.), Sustainable urbanisation, 116-134, doi:10.5772/63726, Institutional Repository