The current complexity involved in wastewater management projects is arising as the XXI century sets new challenges leading towards a more integrated plant design. In this context, the growing number of innovative technologies, stricter legislation and the development of new methodological approaches make it difficult to design appropriate flow schemes for new wastewater projects. Thus, new tools are needed for the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) conceptual design using integrated assessment methods in order to include different types of objectives at the same time i.e. environmental, economical, technical, and legal. Previous experiences used the decision support system (DSS) methodology to handle the specific issues related to wastewater management, for example, the design of treatment facilities for small communities. However, tools developed for addressing the whole treatment process independently of the plant size, capable of integrating knowledge from many different areas, including both conventional and innovative technologies are not available. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to present and describe an innovative knowledge-based methodology that handles the conceptual design of WWTP process flow-diagrams (PFDs), satisfying a vast number of different criteria. This global approach is based on a hierarchy of decisions that uses the information contained in knowledge bases (KBs) with the aim of automating the generation of suitable WWTP configurations for a specific scenario. Expert interviews, legislation, specialized literature and engineering experience have been integrated within the different KBs, which indeed constitute one of the main highlights of this work. Therefore, the methodology is presented as a valuable tool which provides customized PFD for each specific case, taking into account process unit interactions and the user specified requirements and objectives.
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