Network infrastructure systems in urban water management deteriorate and will reach their end of life within the next decades. At this point we need to ask: How do we proceed? Do we rehabilitate or replace current network systems with the help of alternative systems? Disadvantages of centralized infrastructures such as low flexibility due to long planning horizons as well as high (investment) costs have great impact particularly under dynamic conditions and in rural, sparsely populated areas. During the last years, novel, decentralized technologies have gained increased attention for instance because they promise higher flexibility.
In Switzerland and similar countries, centralized wastewater infrastructures are widely established. It remains to be clarified under which conditions decentralized systems are really advantageous. In case they are competitive it needs to be investigated who is going to make which decisions at which point of time to guarantee a successful transition from the current central system to a decentralized alternative. It remains unclear, how local and cantonal stakeholders can be involved effectively into the long-term decision process.
This project aims to identify alternative wastewater systems that require less network infrastructure. The advantages and disadvantages of alternative, innovative systems will be evaluated with respect to future uncertainties (e.g. climate change, population shrinkage/ growth, technology development) as well as with regard to the expectations of stakeholders. Within the project at least one rural community in the canton of Solothurn will be investigated as case study.
The project is a conjoint research activity of Eawag’s departments Environmental Social Sciences (ESS) and Urban Water Management (SWW). The research is conducted in intensive collaboration with the environmental agency of the canton of Solothurn (AfU SO). The project is embedded in the Wings („Water and sanitation innovations for non-grid solutions“) at Eawag.