The Water Hub is part of the NEST building, a living laboratory by Empa and Eawag. This modular building consists of replaceable units, which provide functioning and used apartments, offices, meeting rooms and a fitness and wellness unit. NEST is in constant evolution. Innovative and sustainable building solutions are developed, built, tested and displayed under real conditions. This Living Lab approach helps to bridge the gap between research and industry and thereby accelerates the market entry of innovative technologies.
In the basement of NEST, Eawag researchers run the Water Hub. Wastewater from NEST is collected here to be handled as a resource rather than a waste: we treat wastewater to recover nutrients, clean water, and energy. This allows to reduce pressure on the environment and its resources.
Our approach is decentralised: we separate wastewater streams at the source and treat them within the building, which increases efficiency of treatment and recovery. Decentralised treatment can be especially useful where sewer networks and treatment plants cannot be built or to reduce pressure on these infrastructures, particularly in areas with rapid urban growth. Decentralisation also allows for a systemic approach when designing sanitation solutions for different contexts, making the most of the resources made locally available by treating wastewater.
In NEST special toilets separate undiluted urine from flushwater, faeces and toilet paper; which together constitute blackwater. Other wastewater streams are kept apart using separate piping networks. These networks transport to the water hub the so called light greywater, coming from washing machines and bathroom drains; and heavy greywater, coming from the kitchens. Rainwater is also collected, stored and reused to flush the toilets in NEST.
The Water Hub is also a platform for researchers and partners from industry and practice to collaborate. Technologies enabling decentralised resource-oriented sanitation can be installed in units within NEST or tested in the Water Hub. The Water Hub is open for collaboration with industry and makes seed funding available to initiate small projects to assess the potential of novel concepts and technologies.
Furthermore, the Water Hub is interested in exchange with actors of the sanitation, construction, energy and agriculture sectors, to discuss the influence of decentralised resource-oriented sanitation on their domains and the integration in their projects.
You can visit the Water Hub and NEST in public guided tours!
The Water Hub’s focus comprises the following ongoing and concluded projects: