Cranfield research to ensure water available on tap

Posted: Tuesday 22nd June 2010

Cranfield University is involved in an exciting new project to ensure that water is delivered to taps, 24-hours a day, seven days a week at the correct pressure, no matter what might happen along the way.

Combining mathematics and risk analysis, the two-year project funded by The Leverhulme Trust, aims to look at what can be done to make sure that water networks can withstand failure – something of a new challenge to engineers and utility managers concerned with the design and maintenance of water distribution systems.

Dr Paul Jeffery and Dr Alireza Yazdani from Cranfield’s School of Applied Sciences are using a variety of computer-based analytical tools to look at the relationships between water distribution network layout and the ability of the network to continue to deliver a service when components are damaged or fail. They hope to develop methods to assess network vulnerability thereby helping water utilities save costs by improved protection of their assets and better security. Such methods could also be adapted as a decision support tool for others concerned with critical infrastructures such as urban transport, energy and supply chain networks.

Dr Yazdani said: “Water services can be disrupted as a result of the ageing infrastructure being exposed to various hazards – from typical failures with low severity, to catastrophic events such as flooding, natural disasters and targeted attacks. Rather like a network of roads where there are multiple routes between points A and B, a water supply network’s physical pattern of pipes, pumps, treatment works and junctions determines its ability to maintain services when one or more pathways are unusable. While there has been similar research to look at the robustness of power grids, there hasn’t been much around water networks, yet these are classified as critical infrastructure. So protecting them and ensuring their efficiency is extremely important.”

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