Robust optimization to secure urban bulk water supply against extreme drought and uncertain climate change

Mohammad Mortazavi-Naeini, George Kuczera, Anthony S. Kiem, Lijie Cui, Benjamin Henley, Brendan Berghout, Emma Turner

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58 Citations (Scopus)


Urban bulk water systems supply water with high reliability and, in the event of extreme drought, must avoid catastrophic economic and social collapse. In view of the deep uncertainty about future climate change, it is vital that robust solutions be found that secure urban bulk water systems against extreme drought. To tackle this challenge an approach was developed integrating: 1) a stochastic model of multi-site streamflow conditioned on future climate change scenarios; 2) Monte Carlo simulation of the urban bulk water system incorporated into a robust optimization framework and solved using a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm; and 3) a comprehensive decision space including operating rules, investment in new sources and source substitution and a drought contingency plan with multiple actions with increasingly severe economic and social impact. A case study demonstrated the feasibility of this approach for a complex urban bulk water supply system. The primary objective was to minimize the expected present worth cost arising from infrastructure investment, system operation and the social cost of "normal" and emergency restrictions. By introducing a second objective which minimizes either the difference in present worth cost between the driest and wettest future climate change scenarios or the present worth cost for driest climate scenario, the trade-off between efficiency and robustness was identified. The results show that a significant change in investment and operating strategy can occur when the decision maker expresses a stronger preference for robustness and that this depends on the adopted robustness measure. Moreover, solutions are not only impacted by the degree of uncertainty about future climate change but also by the stress imposed on the system and the range of available options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-451
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Deep uncertainty
  • Multi-objective evolutionary algorithms
  • Robust optimization
  • Urban water resource management

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