Scientists examine water network vulnerability

Scientists from Cranfield University are assessing how water firms can improve how they deal with failures in their infrastructure.

With an ever-aging network water companies are facing increasing costs for repairs when major failures take place.

However, the team from Cranfield have found that while there has been lots of work on power grids, research on the water networks has been ignored.

The work, the university believes, could help water companies save costs and reduce bills by identifying areas in need of repair before they break down.

Dr Paul Jeffery and Dr Alireza Yazdani of Cranfield's School of Applied Sciences are using a variety of computer-based analytical tools in the research, which will take about two years.

The pair will be looking at the relationships between the water distribution network layout and the ability of it to continue delivering a service when it is damaged or fails.

They hope to develop a way to assess the network's vulnerability to help water companies save costs by improving protection of their assets.

Dr Yazdani said: "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."

The work combines mathematics and risk analysis and has taken two-years so far and is funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

Luke Walsh



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