Future trajectories of urban drainage systems: A simple exploratory modeling approach for assessing socio-technical transitions

Jonatan Zischg, Briony Cathryn Rogers, Alexander William Gunn, Wolfgang Rauch, Sitzenfrei Robert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, we present a novel approach to explore future trajectories in urban drainage systems, emphasizing the adoption and implementation of sustainable ‘nature-based’ stormwater management strategies. The focus is on the development and long-term assessment of socio-technical pathways to create a multifunctional stormwater system at the city scale. The innovation is to identify and represent the socio-technical pathways by means of adoption curves for such transition processes. We combine urban planning policies and state-of-the-art urban engineering approaches with societal aspects and analyze them with traditional biophysical models (hydrologic-hydraulic sewer modeling). In doing so, different pathways from a current to a future system state are investigated under a variety of political, population and climate scenarios. Results allow for strategy screening by addressing the spatial and temporal implementation of decentralized stormwater control measures, to enable a successful transition to a sustainable future city. The model is applied to an ongoing transition of Kiruna, a city in Sweden, considering 36 different future trajectories over a transition period of 23 years. Results show that the trajectory of raingarden implementation under a sustainability policy can alleviate the adverse effects of urbanization (growth scenario). While this trajectory resulted in, for example, nearly the same sewer surcharge performance as that characterized by declining urbanization (stagnation) and a business-as-usual policy (with expected raingarden uptake rates approximately one-third lower), significantly better ecological performances (e.g. runoff treatment ratios up to 50%) are achieved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1709-1719
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Adoption curves
  • Exploratory modeling
  • Kiruna
  • Low Impact Development
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Urban transition

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