Drainage systems are the basic infrastructure of cities and have significant influence on the lives of residents. In the construction process of modern cities, the development positioning of the urban drainage system has also expanded from water logging prevention and disaster mitigation to the utilization of sewage resources, restoration for a healthy water cycle and maintenance of the sustainable development of water resources. Combined with information technology, smart urban drainage systems can improve effectiveness and realize real-time optimal operation. In view of this, the research on drainage system management and development is needed for creating an eco-friendly and pollution-free city. What's more, the conservation, utilization, and treatment of urban water resources, as well as the protection and pollution prevention of existing groundwater resources, are also vital considerations in the construction of urban drainage systems and water treatment facilities. When it is going continuous construction and expansion in urban areas, the protection for the urban groundwater and the surrounding water environment, the improvement of old urban drainage systems and the renovation of natural drainage systems in suburban and rural areas all require researchers to implement specific construction projects with a sustainable development concept and approach. Advanced and improved technologies with high effectiveness is also another hot spot in research of smart drainage system and waste water treatment. Based on modelling and numerical analysis, the acquisition, analysis and use of more effective data and the involvement of more intelligent tools are now very popular trends in water engineering, and the iteration and innovation of technology can also help us to build an environmentally friendly and eco-friendly city.

In this special issue of Water Science & Technology on ‘Advances in drainage system management and development’, eight well-selected papers make more contribution to discuss the current challenges in the management, design, and optimization of drainage systems, as well as bring insights in more methods for the difficulties in wastewater quality control and remediation, waste water treatment, the drainage pipe network system, and water logging prevention and flood control. Moreover, several papers in this special issue also provide more technical strategies for the sustainable development of drainage system and urban water treatment, with the various practices in ground engineering cases, such as specific technical improvements and data optimization, to explore the issue of sustainable construction and development in drainage systems.

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