In the Wiki of the CD4WC (Cost Effective Development of Urban Wastewater Systems for Water Directive Compliance) project, I found an interesting Sankey diagram that I wanted to share with you.

This project, funded by the European Commission, deals “with optimising the efficiency of urban wastewater systems with regard to ecological consequences in natural water bodies and with regard to investment and operation costs.”

The waste water treatment process system is shown with a schematic flow diagram. For individual substances that can be found in the waste water, the diagram is then displayed with Sankey flows, that represent the quantity. Thus, Sankey diagrams are a possibility for the “determination of fluxes of substances per unit of time”. This presentation is part of a method is coined Substance Flow Analysis.

This presentation is very advantageous: The nodes in the system (the process blocks) remain at the same position, only the magnitude of the arrows changes, when switching to the substance flows view. Flows with large quantities substances are clearly visible.

It would also be a possibility to introduce as a third view (next to absolute water quantity, and substance quantities) the substance concentrations (impurities per m³ of waste water).

One important issue in material flow models is tracing of certain substances, such as heavy metals or toxins. While the overall material flow quantity is less relevant, the focus is on comparatively smaller quantities.

The Sankey diagram below shows the Cadmium (Cd) flows in an composting plant (mechanic-biological treatment plant, MBT). It was created by ifeu Institute in Heidelberg with the material flow management software Umberto.

In the modeling software Umberto, the Sankey diagrams are an optional way of displaying calculated material flows.