netWORKS 2 – Transformation Management for a Sustainable Water Infrastructure

The netWORKS group project developed work aids and decision-making tools to assist municipalities in planning and investing in water resource management.

Research approach

One of the ways in which netWORKS supports municipal water resource management is by assisting with fundamental planning and investment. To this end, the team focused especially on developing alternatives to conventional systems. A work aid arising from this process serves to simplify the complex decision-making process faced by municipalities. 

Inventory check and scenarios

Municipal water resource management is based on a gradually evolved central system of networks and plant installations. Nowadays, however, technical innovations have created the option of alternative infrastructures. Taking an international inventory check as the starting point, alternative systems were devised. These then provided material for scenarios. ISOE prepared the scenarios, acted them out and evaluated them. New procedures for transformation management were trialled with the participating model municipalities. The manual from the first netWORKS project provided the methodological basis for this. 


The opportunities and risks represented by the proposed alternatives depend very much on the investment costs. This made it necessary to establish the economic cost at stake for the municipalities. On the whole, the investment and operating costs for alternative infrastructures are on a par with those for conventional solutions. Due to the complex prevailing circumstances, costs were calculated on both an economic and resource-economic level. Recommendations were also put forward regarding the ideal time to introduce the alternative systems. 


Demographic and climate change calls into question proven scheduling rules in residential water management. Today in some regions of Germany, the water infrastructure is already under-utilised. Rising energy prices can also render the operation of plant installations and networks uneconomic. The municipalities legally responsible for water supply and wastewater disposal are thus faced with some fundamental decision-making. 

Project partners

  • Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik (Difu), Berlin
  • BTU Cottbus/Lehrstuhl für Stadttechnik
  • IWW Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wasserforschung, Mühlheim/Ruhr
  • Arbeitsgruppe für regionale Struktur- und Umweltforschung (ARSU), Oldenburg
  • Cooperative – Infrastruktur und Umwelt Darmstadt-Weimar

Practice partners

  • Cities of Bielefeld, Essen, Chemnitz, Cottbus, Hamburg, Schwerin


Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), Funding Programme Social-ecological Research. The joint project is being continued in netWORKS 3.


2007/07 – 2009/12