Screening European market potentials for small modular wastewater treatment systems – an inroad to sustainability transitions in urban water management?

Eggimann, S., Truffer, B., Feldmann, U., and Maurer, M.

Urban water management represents a core economic sector exposed to global water-related challenges. Recently, small modular system configurations have been identified to enable a potential sustainability transition in this lasting and rather conservative sector. The identification of current market potentials of decentralised wastewater treatment is a first step to assess whether decentralised treatment technologies could potentially be deployed on a larger scale in Europe, which would allow current decentralised wastewater treatment technologies to develop and mature. The paper elaborates a method to assess the market potential for decentralised wastewater treatment systems by starting from a raster-based geospatial modelling framework, to determine the optimal degrees of centralisation for the case of Switzerland. The resulting market potential is shown to be twenty times higher than the current market share of decentralised systems. In order to extrapolate these findings to other countries, the calculated optimal degrees of centralisation were correlated with different spatial density measures to determine a reliable and widely available proxy: population density. Based on this indicator, the European market potentials for decentralised treatment systems are estimated to be about 100,000 units per annum serving around 35 million population equivalents. The paper concludes by discussing implications for future sustainability transitions in urban water management by large-scale installation of small modular wastewater treatment systems.