Water Resources Management

, Volume 24, Issue 11, pp 2795-2816

First online:

Distributed Water Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities

  • Christos K. MakropoulosAffiliated withDepartment ofWater Resources and Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens Email author 
  • , David ButlerAffiliated withCentre for Water Systems, School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, University of Exeter

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Distributed water infrastructure (located at the community or the household level) is relatively untried and unproven, compared with technologies for managing urban water at higher (e.g. regional) levels. This work presents a review of currently available options for distributed water infrastructure and illustrates the potential impact of their deployment through a number of indicative infrastructure strategies. The paper summarises the main categories of both centralised and decentralised water infrastructure, covering all three flows (water supply, wastewater and drainage) and their integration through recycling and reuse. The potential impact of the identified infrastructure options for urban water management is examined. The desirability of the strategies examined, is dependent on (case specific) constraints to urban development, including for example regional or local water resource availability, treatment plant capacity, cost of upgrading infrastructure, potential for (distributed) energy (micro) generation and climatic changes (and other non-stationary processes). The results are presented and discussed. It is concluded that there is currently a significant potential for a range of improvements in urban water management which could result from the context-aware deployment of a portfolio of technological infrastructure options. It is also suggested that there are trade-offs between water use, energy use and land use, and these have an equilibrium point that is associated with the technological state-of-art. At a given technological state-of-art, further reductions in water savings signify increase either energy consumption (for high-tech solutions) or land use (for low-tech solutions). The strategies’ evaluation indicates however, that until this equilibrium point is reached there can be significant gains in all three aspects. After this equilibrium, improvements in one aspect inevitably signify costs in others. The choice of desired trade-off then depends on the specific constraints of the problem at hand.


Decentralised Distributed water infrastructure Micro-generation Strategies Urban water