Urban Water Infrastructure - Finding Simplicity in Complexity


Funding: FWF - Der Wissenschaftsfonds

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Project duration: 09/2018 - 09/2021

short description:

Urban water management addresses all water-related issues in cities and its functioning is crucial for human well-being. The water infrastructure is usually in place in form of pipe networks, supplying water in the city and draining rain and wastewater out of it. Alike the city itself, the water infrastructure in cities grew over decades resulting in organic and complex systems. In nature and many other engineered systems, networks can be described based on graph theory. With that theory simple coherences in such systems can be identified, bringing order and simplicity in these complex structures.


The main focus of this research is a better understanding of principles and characteristics of grown infrastructures based on graph theory. As they are crucial for managing and preserving the high level of service in industrialized countries and enable it in developing countries. If enough data of water networks is available, hydraulic network models are powerful instruments to assess and plan these systems. One key pillar of this research will be the determination of the amount of network information being necessary for different assessment and simulation techniques and for reconstructing missing information. This innovative concept of evaluating the assessment techniques is denoted “network structure uncertainties” and will be developed and established in this project.

Because structures in urban water management have life expectancies of up to 100 years or more, urban water systems as implemented today are strongly influenced by historical decisions and implementations. In the same way, current decisions will have a long-term impact on these systems. Therefore, it is also important to understand what happened in the past and how these implementations influence today’s systems. However, information on historical systems is very rare. During the growth process of the network some information on the system could have been lost. Furthermore, due to its location underground the information is hard to collect. Moreover, the concept of “network structure uncertainties” is explored in terms of reconstruction of such information on historical systems. The hypothesis is that historical networks can be reconstructed with different available data sources (orthophotos, etc.). If the concept is successfully proven additional benefits for cost efficiency, rehabilitation planning, future planning as well as for managing and preserving the level of service can be gained. In addition, the identification of drivers for robust, resilient and flexible future planning of infrastructure is a key question of this proposal and will be assessed within this project.


additional information:

Articles in journals and conferences

  • Sitzenfrei, R.: (2021): Using complex network analysis for water quality assessment in large water distribution systems. In: Water Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2021.117359
  • Sitzenfrei, R.; Wang, Q.; Kapelan, Z.; Savic, D.: (2020): Using complex network analysis for optimization of water distribution networks. In: Water Resources Research, 56. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020WR027929
  • Hajibabaei, M.; Hesarkazzazi, S.; Lima, M.S,S.; Gschösser, F.; Sitzenfrei, R. (2020): Environmental assessment of construction and renovation of water distribution networks considering uncertainty analysis. In: Urban Water Journal, (published online); DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1573062X.2020.1783326 
  • Hesarkazzazi, S.; Hajibabaei, M.; Reyes-Silva, J.D.; Krebs, P. Sitzenfrei, R. (2020): Assessing Redundancy in Stormwater Structures under Hydraulic Design. In: Water 2020, 12(4) 1003; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/w12041003 
  • Reyes-Silva, J.D.; Zischg, J.; Klinkhamer, C.; Rao, P.S.C; Sitzenfrei, R.; Krebs, P. (2020): Centrality and Shortest Path Length measures for the functional analysis of Urban Drainage Networks. In Applied Network Science. 5:1 https://doi.org/10.1007/s41109-019-0247-8
  • Diao, Kegong & Sitzenfrei, Robert & Rauch, Wolfgang. (2019). The Impacts of Spatially Variable Demand Patterns on Water Distribution System Design and Operation. Water. 11. 567. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11030567
  • Hajibabaei, Mohsen & Hesarkazzazi, Sina & Gschösser, Florian & Sitzenfrei, Robert. (2019). Identifying the least amount of data for reliable life cycle assessment of water distribution networks. Conference Paper from 17th International Computing & Control for the Water Industry Conference, At Exeter, United Kingdom
  • Hajibabaei, Mohsen & Nazif, Sara & Sitzenfrei, Robert. (2019). Improving the Performance of Water Distribution Networks Based on the Value Index in the System Dynamics Framework. Water. 11. 2445. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122445
  • Hesarkazzazi, Sina & Hajibabaei, Mohsen & Sitzenfrei, Robert. (2019). Functional Properties of Stormwater Systems Based on Graph Theory. Conference Paper from 17th International Computing & Control for the Water Industry Conference, At Exeter, United Kingdom
  • Jia, Ning & Sitzenfrei, Robert & Rauch, & Liang, & Liu, Fencheng. (2019). Effects of Urban Forms on Separate Drainage Systems: A Virtual City Perspective. Water. 11. 758. https://doi.org/10.3390/w11040758
  • Sitzenfrei, Robert & Oberascher, Martin & Zischg, Jonatan. (2019). Identification of network patterns in optimal water distribution systems based on complex network analysis. Conference Paper from World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2019. 473-483. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482353.045
  • Zischg, Jonatan & Klinkhamer, Christopher & Zhan, Xianyuan & Rao, P. & Sitzenfrei, Robert. (2019). A Century of Topological Coevolution of Complex Infrastructure Networks in an Alpine City. Complexity. 2019. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2096749
  • Zischg, Jonatan & Reyes-Silva, Julian & Klinkhamer, Christopher & Krueger, Elisabeth & Krebs, Peter & Rao, P. & Sitzenfrei, Robert. (2019). Complex Network Analysis of Water Distribution Systems in Their Dual Representation Using Isolation Valve Information. Conference Paper from World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2019. 484-497. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482353.046
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