A conceptual framework for a multi-criteria decision support tool to select technologies for resource recovery from urban wastewater

Seda Sucu, Maria O. van Schaik, Ramazan Esmeli, Djamila Ouelhadj, Timothy Grant Holloway, John Williams, Peter Cruddas, Brett Martinson, Wei-Shan Chen, Hans J. Cappon

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In the context of circular economy, wastewater can be used to address some of the 21st century’s challenges regarding the transition to renewable resources for water, energy, and nutrients. Despite all the research, development, and experience with resource recovery from urban wastewater, its implementation is still limited. The transition from treatment to resource recovery is complex due to the difficulty of selecting unit processes from a large number of candidate processes considering the operational limitations of each process, and sustainability objectives. Presently, a multi-criteria decision support tool that deals with the difficulty of unit process selection for resource recovery from wastewater has not been developed. Therefore, this paper presents the conceptual framework of a decision support tool to find the optimum treatment train consisting of compatible unit processes which can recover water, energy and/or nutrients from a specified influent composition. The framework presents the relationship between the user input, the knowledge library of technologies and a weighted multi-objective nonlinear programming model to aid process selection. The model presented here shows, not only how the processes are selected, but also the four-dimensional sustainability impact of the generated treatment train while considering the weight provided by the user. Thus, this study presents a reproducible framework which can support private and public decision-makers in transparent evidence-based decision making and eventually the systematic implementation of resource recovery from urban wastewater.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113608
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date9 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021


  • sustainability
  • Resource recovery
  • Multi-criteria decision support
  • Treatment train generation
  • Treatment train evaluation


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