Precaution and Innovation in the Context of Wastewater Regulation

This month, Fritz-Julius Grafe and Harald A. Mieg, who conducted the case study on "Financial risks in water infrastructure planning", have published the article Precaution and Innovation in the Context of Wastewater Regulation: An Examination of Financial Innovation under UWWTD Disputes in London and Milan”, on the Sustainability journal.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) under the guidance of the precautionary principle sets out standards to guarantee high quality water services for European citizens. This requires European cities to modernise their water infrastructures in accordance with EU Law at great financial cost. How to bridge this financial gap?

This paper uses the cases of London and Milan, both of which breached the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, to show how the precautionary principle affects urban water infrastructure provision. It also details how the regulation can, on one hand, trigger innovation and, on the other hand, create secondary risks within the highly integrated urban water infrastructure sector.

The London case focusses on an individual infrastructure project and shows how its financial framing has compromised the outcome, while the Milan case presents a longer-view perspective that shows how structural changes in the urban water infrastructure sector have enabled an environment for sustainable financial innovation.

Overall, transparency and good local governance practices play a key role for a successful implementation of the precautionary principle requirements in a city’s water sector.

The "Financial risks in water infrastructure planning" case study aims to understand the complexities and controversies around the application of the precautionary principle in the context of urban waste water infrastructure provision.

full overview of the RECIPES’s case studies can be found HERE.


Harald A. Mieg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Email:

Fritz-Julius Grafe, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Published in
Sustainability journal
Scientific Publication
Publishing Date