Challenges and opportunities of modular water infrastructures in CH (COMIX)

By Bernhard Truffer

Comix is a project funded under the NRP73 program of the Swiss National Science Foundation on a Sustainable Economy. The goal of COMIX is to assess the transition towards sustainable urban water management systems in Switzerland, building on “modular”, i.e. potentially smaller, more decentralized and source-oriented treatment systems.

Three academic subprojects contribute to this assessment: i) the identification of global technology development initiatives that may result in reliable and cost-efficient modular systems in the future; ii) the elaboration of new management and regulation concepts, which would enable the operation and supervision of large fleets of decentralized wastewater treatment systems; and iii) dynamic cost-benefit analyses for alternative strategies to introduce such systems.

Besides these analytical work packages, COMIX also involves cooperation with Swiss practitioners who are responsible for building up, operating and regulating sanitation services, i.e. experts from federal, cantonal and communal administrations, consultancies, professional associations, and technology companies. As a major area of activity in this transdisciplinary research, the COMIX team organizes a series of three one-day workshops with fifteen representatives of major practitioner segments in order to discuss the research results and assess the likelihood of a massive deployment of modular technologies in Switzerland in the course of the next fifteen years.

A first workshop took place in January 2020. Participants formulated three scenarios concerning the diffusion of modular water systems. The first one, a business as usual scenario, assumes that no major changes will occur in this time span. A second scenario focuses on the increasing future role of small wastewater treatment in peripheral and peri-urban areas. And a third scenario looked at prospects for integrated resource treatment plants, which would deal with the energy, waste and water flows of individual buildings in connection with increasingly popular smart home applications.

A second Workshop is planned for February 2021 during which research results elaborated in Comix so far will be discussed. Finally, in March 2021 we will discuss the strategic implications of dealing with modular water systems in the future for the different actors involved. The workshop series aims at elaborating a recommendation for Swiss policy makers on how to prepare for modular systems in future urban water management.

Key insights

  • Global technological developments in modular water technologies are mapped
  • New governance arrangements are spelled out for Switzerland
  • A cost-benefit model for comparing different transition scenarios from centralized to hybrid water systems has been developed


Prof. Dr. Bernhard TrufferChef du département, Cluster CirusTel. +41 58 765 5670Envoyez un message

Project Website

Wir untersuchen die Herausforderungen modularer Infrastrukturen für die Schweizer Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft am Beispiel der Siedlungswasserwirtschaft.