A Simplified Sanitary Sewer System Generator for Exploratory Modelling at City-Scale

Natalia Duque*, Peter M. Bach, Lisa Scholten, Fabrizia Fappiano, Max Maurer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Future climatic, demographic, technological, urban and socio-economic challenges call for more flexible and sustainable wastewater infrastructure systems. Exploratory modelling can help to investigate the consequences of these developments on the infrastructure. In order to explore large numbers of adaptation strategies, we need to re-balance the degree of realism of sewer network and ability to reflect key performance characteristics against the model's parsimony and computational efficiency. We present a spatially explicit algorithm for creating sanitary sewer networks that realistically represent key characteristics of a real system. Basic topographic, demographic and urban characteristics are abstracted into a squared grid of ‘Blocks’ which are the foundation for the sewer network's topology delineation. We compare three different pipe dimensioning approaches and found a good balance between detail and computational efficiency. With a basic hydraulic performance assessment, we demonstrate that we attain a computationally efficient and high-fidelity wastewater sewer network with adequate hydraulic performance. A spatial resolution of 250 m Block size in combination with a sequential Pipe-by-Pipe (PBP) design algorithm provides a sound trade-off between computational time and fidelity of relevant structural and hydraulic properties for exploratory modelling. We can generate a simplified sewer network (both topology and hydraulic design) in 18 s using PBP, versus 36 min using a highly detailed model or 1 s using a highly abstract model. Moreover, this simplification can cut up to 1/10th to 1/50th the computational time for the hydraulic simulations depending on the routing method implemented. We anticipate our model to be a starting point for sophisticated exploratory modelling into possible infrastructure adaptation measures of topological and loading changes of sewer systems for long-term planning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number117903
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Algorithmic network generation
  • Foul sewer system modelling
  • Geographic information system (GIS)
  • Network topology
  • Wastewater infrastructure


Dive into the research topics of 'A Simplified Sanitary Sewer System Generator for Exploratory Modelling at City-Scale'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this