Project #1366

When to Consider Distributed Systems in an Urban and Surburban Context

Principal Investigator
Research Manager
Dr. Amit Pramanik
Tetra Tech, Inc.
Decentralized Systems


Water infrastructure systems are increasingly relying on the integration of centralized and decentralized treatment approaches to effectively deliver economical, flexible, and sustainable water services. Distributed water management describes integrated planning, design, and management using system infrastructure at various scales - from decentralized to centralized - based on an equitable approach that considers suitability and sustainability. This research presents distributed infrastructure management approaches for a variety of stakeholders, provides examples showing where and why distributed approaches are being used to advance sustainability at the community level, and provides tools that practitioners can use to make informed infrastructure decisions. This project analyzed 20 case study examples where distributed approaches were being used for wastewater service across a range of community-specific situations and management frameworks. This information was then used to create a toolkit to help stakeholders determine where, when, why, and how to use decentralized approaches in urban and suburban areas - or in areas where users might normally be served by centralized systems.

The toolkit includes:

  • Case studies
  • Decentralized Wastewater Stakeholder Decision Model (When to Consider Distributed Systems in an Urban and Suburban Context): Helps users weigh the costs and benefits of various wastewater options for a community based on the triple-bottom-line approach.
  • Distributed water resources:
    • Decentralized Systems in Green Buildings and Sustainable Sites: Article on decentralized systems that are implemented primarily to achieve green building and sustainable design objectives.
    • Independent Communities Maintain Character, Independence with Distributed Systems: Article on communities using distributed infrastructure in efforts to maintain their financial independence and preserve community character.
    • Distributed Water Infrastructure in Sustainable Communities: A Guide for Decision-Makers: Guidance for decision-makers on how to begin the decision process. Summarizes case studies, focusing on the drivers behind choosing a decentralized system.
    • Distributed Infrastructure Management for Optimizing Traditional Utility Operations: Article on innovative decentralized treatment approaches used by traditional municipalities to optimize their operations.

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Originally funded as WERF project DEC3R06.