The SPPD-WRF framework: A novel and holistic methodology for strategical planning and process design of water resource factories

Philipp Kehrein*, Mark van Loosdrecht, Patricia Osseweijer, John Posada, Jo Dewulf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


This paper guides decision making in more sustainable urban water management practices that feed into a circular economy by presenting a novel framework for conceptually designing and strategically planning wastewater treatment processes from a resource recovery perspective. Municipal wastewater cannot any longer be perceived as waste stream because a great variety of technologies are available to recover water, energy, fertilizer, and other valuable products from it. Despite the vast technological recovery possibilities, only a few processes have yet been implemented that deserve the name water resource factory instead of wastewater treatment plant. This transition relies on process designs that are not only technically feasible but also overcome various non-technical bottlenecks. A multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach is needed to design water resource factories (WRFs) in the future that are technically feasible, cost effective, show low environmental impacts, and successfully market recovered resources. To achieve that, the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) design space needs to be opened up for a variety of expertise that complements the traditional wastewater engineering domain. Implementable WRF processes can only be designed if the current design perspective, which is dominated by the fulfilment of legal euent qualities and process costs, is extended to include resource recovery as an assessable design objective from an early stage on. Therefore, the framework combines insights and methodologies from different fields and disciplines beyond WWTP design like, e.g., circular economy, industrial process engineering, project management, value chain development, and environmental impact assessment. It supports the transfer of the end-of-waste concept into the wastewater sector as it structures possible resource recovery activities according to clear criteria. This makes recovered resources more likely to fulfil the conditions of the end-of-waste concept and allows the change in their definition from wastes to full-fledged products.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4168
Number of pages31
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Circular economy
  • Conceptual process design
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Multiple-criteria decision making
  • Resource recovery
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable urban development
  • Urban water management
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water resource factories


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