App helps with difficult decisions
May 11, 2022
What is the best way to replace an old wastewater treatment plant? Which early warning system is most successful in protecting against flooding? Thanks to a method developed by Eawag, experts can analyse complex decision-making problems in a simple way.
In technical jargon, the method is called MCDA, short for “Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis”. The ValueDecisions app calculates and visualises the results of the MCDA in clear graphical representations and tables. “You can see at a glance which options are best for the stakeholders and where a compromise is possible,” says the environmental social scientist and biologist. While a script with complex programming runs in the background, the interface is very user-friendly. All you have to do is upload two Excel spreadsheets.
Wastewater treatment in Paris
Graph by ValueDecisions on five different options for wastewater disposal in Paris (x-axis). How well each sub-objective is achieved is indicated with coloured blocks (A_ Environmental protection, B_ Resource use, C_ Social well-being, D_ Economic performance). Depending on the environmental attitude (preservationists or utilitarians), the options achieve the subobjectives and the overall objective to different degrees (values from 0 - 1 on the y-axis). However, the status quo, the conventional wastewater treatment plant, always performs significantly worse than a decentralised vacuum system with urine source separation and dry toilets with underground compost chambers on site.
A study in rural areas of Canton Solothurn came to a similar conclusion. In several workshops, the Eawag researchers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of decentralised wastewater infrastructures compared to a conventional wastewater treatment plant with the local population and carried out an MCDA using the new app. Here too, the dry toilets performed very well in one case, as did the other decentralised options such as small wastewater treatment plants. “And the workshop participants in one municipality were very open to the decentralised solutions,” says Lienert.
Flood warning in West Africa
“We created our app for complex decisions where there are many stakeholders and uncertainties,” says Lienert, who hopes that the practical tool will soon be used by as many experts as possible. If you would like to use ValueDecisions, you can find a user guide and an example on the corresponding website, which explains the procedure step by step.
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