Factors affecting economies of scale in combined sewer systems

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

A generic model is introduced that represents the combined sewer infrastructure of a settlement quantitatively. A catchment area module first calculates the length and size distribution of the required sewer pipes on the basis of rain patterns, housing densities and area size. These results are fed into the sewer-cost module in order to estimate the combined sewer costs of the entire catchment area. A detailed analysis of the relevant input parameters for Swiss settlements is used to identify the influence of size on costs. The simulation results confirm that an economy of scale exists for combined sewer systems. This is the result of two main opposing cost factors: (i) increased construction costs for larger sewer systems due to larger pipes and increased rain runoff in larger settlements, and (ii) lower costs due to higher population and building densities in larger towns. In Switzerland, the more or less organically grown settlement structures and limited land availability emphasise the second factor to show an apparent economy of scale. This modelling approach proved to be a powerful tool for understanding the underlying factors affecting the cost structure for water infrastructures.

Keywords: economy of scale, sewerage, urban water infrastructure model

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