ERC research at a test bed in Discovery Bay, near San Francisco, CA, helps achieve a vision of how natural systems may work together with engineered systems to improve water quality, enhance ecosystems, and improve urban aesthetics.




Jörg Drewes, Research Director

Our research program focuses on fundamental investigations and applied research to create a suite of successful water management options and decision-making tools. We study engineered and natural systems and the way in which they can be effectively integrated into the portfolio of urban water resources.

Some specific aims of this research are:

  • To incorporate resource recovery and energy production into engineered water systems,
  • To engineer natural systems to improve water quantity, water quality, and habitat,
  • To overcome impediments to adopting new urban water management strategies,
  • To develop technologies in concert with companies involved in the Center’s program,
  • To provide improved decision-making tools to decision makers.

Our fundamental research on engineered and natural systems will inform our water supply portfolio testbeds, which in turn will help us reinvent urban water systems.

Current Research Projects

ReNUWIt's research program comprises more than 30 interrelated projects; click here to download a current listing.

Efficient Engineered Systems

Leader: Tzahi Cath
Urban water infrastructure includes water and wastewater treatment plants, water distribution systems and runoff and wastewater collection systems. To enhance the efficiency and resiliency of these systems we will conduct fundamental research on novel modes of energy recovery and water treatment using membranes, biological treatment processes and state-of-the-art control technology. Our new approaches will be integrated into pilot and full-scale testbeds that will be evaluated for performance and sustainability with a triple-bottom line assessment.

Themes with downloadable info sheets:

Natural Water Infrastructure Systems

Leader: Alexandria Boehm
Natural systems like wetlands and streams are already being used as part of water management strategies. Here, we will apply rigorous engineering principles to natural systems so they can be more effectively employed in urban water infrastructure. We will study and quantify how wetlands and streams improve water quality, ecosystem health, and urban aesthetics; investigate subsurface water storage in urban areas; explore how natural barriers work to purify wastewater effluent; and develop techniques to harvest stormwater for aquifer recharge.

Themes with downloadable info sheets:

Urban Water Systems and Resource Management

Leader: David Sunding
Novel technologies and approaches developed by our researchers in Engineered Systems and Natural Systems must be assessed for their economic, environmental, and public impacts before they can be implemented. We will conduct research in the areas of public policy, business, economics, communications, planning, and law to improve techniques for water resource planning and technology evaluation. We will use economic analysis to develop integrated assessment models; explore how institutions, communications, and policy affect water technology implementation; model future water infrastructure scenarios; use business models to better understand water infrastructure; and conduct risk assessments of proposed changes to urban water systems.

Themes with downloadable info sheets:

International Partners

ERC researchers collaborate with faculty abroad to enhance our research program. We have on-going collaborations with the University of New South Wales (drought management and assessment strategies), Nanyang Technological University (urban environments as water catchments and potable reuse), and Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (trace pollutants, decentralization, and nutrient recovery). Involvement with these institutions also strengthens the ability of our students to thrive in a global environment.