A general framework for the formulation and analysis of an overall decision support index is discussed. It is indicated that such an index allow evaluation of the combined effects of both design and operation (i) during the planning phase of new WWTPs, as well as (ii) for the evaluation of new operational strategies versus traditional expansions of plants already in operation. Attention is drawn to the problems of incorporating such factors as plant flexibility and robustness against failures in the index. These factors become especially relevant when decisions are to be made that affect the life span of a WWTP. Spatial and temporal separation of the optimisation problem are proposed to make the approach operational. It is not the intention of the authors to provide an exhaustive list of objective criterion functions, but rather to give the reader some examples illustrating the approach.

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