Research Area: Water Technology and Assets (TECHNO)

Research Line: Novel treatment processes for drinking water

Water treatment processes are challenged by two aspects: i) the elimination of health-related water contaminants (e.g. viruses, bacteria, parasites, micro-pollutants and nano-particles) has to be secured, ii) the increasing pressure on natural water resources used for drinking water treatment from interfering trace substances (both with respect to the concentrations of individual substances, and to the diversity of substances).

New treatment processes coping with these challenges have to be developed. In addition, existing treatment technologies will have to be improved in their performance. In particular research will focus on process combinations, their potentially synergetic interactions and their effect on downstream treatment processes or on water distribution. Both non-physical and mainly physical elimination methods will be investigated, however membrane filtration is seen as a central processing stage combined with specially enhanced oxidation, flocculation, precipitation and sorption steps. Novel membranes (e.g. consisting of ceramic materials), novel sorbents as well as novel particle removal collectors, making also use of nanotechnology, will have a special role in these developments.

Current projects

Research Line: Treatment processes for reclamation of used water

Increasing costs for fresh water procurement and wastewater discharge coupled with diminishing availability of fresh water from natural sources have resulted in an increased emphasis of proper management on the one hand, and recycling of reclaimed water for industrial applications or re-use for non-industrial purposes on the other hand.

Reclaimed water from industrial water treatment processes is commonly recycled as cooling water, boiler feed water and process water. Reclaimed water from domestic waste water treatment is most commonly re-used for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation in agriculture, public parks, and golf courses. In some cases, reclaimed water is used indirectly for potable purposes, e.g. via recharge of ground water aquifers and by augmenting surface water reservoirs.

Cost-effective and reliable water reclamation technologies are vital to a successful implementation of water re-use projects. Therefore, IWW will carry out comprehensive research on advanced treatment technologies and their combinations, including membrane processes, advanced oxidation and reliable disinfection. In the context of sustainability, research will focus on the following topics:

  • to consume a minimum of raw materials and energy
  • to reduce the carbon footprint of treatment technologies
  • to minimize waste through efficient use of resources
  • to recover useful materials from production waste
  • to enable conversion of residual waste to an environmentally acceptable form before disposal

A huge potential for new technologies is seen for intra-urban re-use with decentralized or semi-decentralized systems which are able to provide water in customer-tailored quality and quantity. In this context not just used water will be centered but also other, atypical water resources like stormwater as this source can be treated with low energy demand. Respective challenges are the treatment and storage of a huge amount of water in a very short time.

Research Line: Maintenance and operation of water supply systems

Operations and maintenance of water supply systems are major tasks for water utilities. To ensure an adequate water supply quality, requirements on asset condition and effective maintenance will further increase on the national and the international level.

In order to enable water suppliers to cope with these future challenges, further research is needed on improved asset condition assessment methods and corrosion prevention techniques. In close cooperation with inspection companies, our research will cover new non-destructive inspection techniques and testing methods for all relevant materials in water supply systems. The main focus for new material testing methods is on grey cast iron, steel, PVC, PE, asbestos cement and pre-stressed concrete.

Other important maintenance tasks are methods to reduce or manage water losses in water networks. In particular, feasible and more precise leakage detection techniques and methods need to be developed.

IWW is developing new holistic approaches for operational processes and maintenance strategies by evaluating results of asset condition assessment, inspection, material testing and leakage detection. This will be facilitated by international collaboration and pooling of data. These holistic approaches need to be extendable to cover the complete water infrastructure management. Utilising specific interfaces, data and results from other technical or economical assessment methods will enable an improved life cycle assessment of water supply systems and their sustainable management.

Research Line: Materials in water-bearing systems

Different materials such as metals and plastics are installed in water-bearing systems. The selection and applicability of these materials depend on the purpose of the system and its technical details. In drinking water systems the selection and evaluation of materials is mainly determined by compliance with the drinking water directive. Interactions between the drinking water and the material resulting in a change of the water composition must not exceed limit values of the drinking water directive.

IWW research in this area will be driven by recent changes in the selection and evaluation system for materials in drinking water systems. In several cases, materials have to be modified regarding their alloy composition and new coating technologies have to be developed in order to achieve compliance with current and future requirements. Additionally, changes in the raw material segment and financial constraints lead to a search for alternative materials that show equal properties to the reference material. IWW research will focus on effects on microbiological water quality and biofilm formation as well as corrosion behaviour, strengthening its integrative perspective on links between material science, corrosion and microbial water quality.

In the case of cooling and heating water systems the availability of the asset and the efficiency of the systems are the most important factors. IWW research will focus on service life predictions and the development of suitable sensor systems for monitoring e.g. the corrosion intensity and microbiological quality of the water, especially for cooling water systems.


  • In preparation