Department Urban Water Management

Systems Transformation

Systems transformation looks at engineering options and methodologies designed to lead urban water infrastructures into a sustainable and resilient future. It focuses on the technical part of the entire urban water system and thus nicely complements the technology development of the department for ‘Process Engineering’ and the research at the department for ‘Environmental Social Sciences’. The systems engineering research is strongly linked to Eawag’s strategic program Wings , which has three core research thrusts:

(i) Wings-system development aims to develop innovative urban water management systems providing an alternative to network-based conventional urban water management. It builds strongly on the work of the projects Novaquatis  (transdisciplinary project on urine source separation, 2000 - 2006) and Blue Diversion and is now preparing to tackle the entire range of urban water services as a system innovation.

(ii) Transition planning develops methods to support transforming an existing network infrastructure into a sustainable future. Flexibility and resilience are considered as inherent system properties and are explicitly evaluated, for example by specifically tailoring innovative concepts from ‘flexibility engineering’ to water systems.

(iii) Blue-green infrastructure for multi-functionality develops integrated design and planning tools for sustainable and resilient communities that acheive multiple environmental and social objectives in an uncertain future climate.


Dr. Joao Paulo Leitao Senior scientist (Group Leader) Tel. +41 58 765 6714 Send Mail
Dr. Lauren Cook Group leader Tel. +41 58 765 5474 Send Mail

Urban Water Resource Management

The primary objectives of urban water management is provision of drinking water and water for personal hygiene, protection against flooding, and securing urban hygiene, while at the same time protecting the natural environment. In order to provide these services, large infrastructures are set up for drinking water provision, urban drainage, and wastewater treatment and an entire water and wastewater industry has developed.

Since the 21st century is characterized by growing resource scarcity, primarily driven by rapid population growth, increasing living standards, and climate change, resource efficiency has become a major objective in the area of urban water management.

In order to provide the services of urban water management, resources are needed. Obviously, water is required, but also energy and other natural resources as well as financial means. In the last decades, attention has been drawn to the fact that resources are also contained in waste products. This is also true for urban water management where wastewater contains significant resources, most prominently water, energy, and nutrients.

In the group of Urban Water Resource Management, the hypothesis is pursued that source separation and decentralization is one key to reach resource efficiency. First explored through the example of urine source separation in the cross-cutting project Novaquatis, the principle was successful implemented in the Blue Diversion projects. The results show a high potential for resource efficiency and helped frame the strategic program Wings (Water and sanitation innovations for non-grid solutions), which connect many similar projects under a common roof.



Water and sanitation innovations for non-grid solutions (Wings) is a strategic Eawag program, which build on relevant projects in different Eawag departments. The main objective is identical to the objective of the Urban Water Resource Management Group: to provide the urban water management services as resource-efficient as possible, mainly by exploring the possibilities of source separation and decentralization.   


Wings Metropolitan
This project will address urban areas with high population density, network-based wastewater management infrastructure, and high technological, operational and regulatory abilities in the water management sector. The key issue potentially leading to an interest in a Wings solution is high population growth causing a requirement for an extension of existing wastewater treatment plants. This is one of the base scenarios that has been addressed in previous work at Eawag (Novaquatis). An additional issue of importance in Europe is the discussion of pharmaceuticals, which are to a large degree excreted via urine. A number of stakeholders are interested in this issue as an important extra bonus for the introduction of urine separation in the growing parts of a city.  


Finished projects

Climate-friendly wastewater management. Publication: Larsen 2015 (Water Research Article in refshare SWW 2015)

Blue Diversion, Phase 2 IWA Project Innovation Awards.

Blue Diversion, Phase 1 Award from the Bill & Melinda Gated Foundation.


. 2008 td-net Award for Transdisciplinary Research.


Further Information

Source Separation & Decentralization for Wastewater Management.


Water Infrastructure Management (WIM)

Research Mission: The WIM-group develops tools and methods to quantify and understand the technical and economic dynamics of water infrastructures. Besides traditional centralized networks the focus is on novel water and wastewater infrastructure systems and their integration into existing structures.

Water supply and wastewater disposal are investment intensive services with large amounts of capital bound in long-lasting underground assets. The wastewater removal in Switzerland alone consists of 87'000 km of sewers and 759 large sewage treatment plants with a replacement value of altogether 100 . 109CHF.

The water infrastructure management group focuses on the scientific basis for the sustainable management of these structures. Particularly we work on:

  • the quantitative characterisation of the existing urban water infrastructures,
  • the technical and economic evaluation of existing and new alternative sewerage systems, and
  • the quantitative evaluation of transition scenarios in urban water management systems.