Theme: Distribution

Drinking water infrastructure is capital intensive and has a long technical lifetime. Its design therefore requires insight into future developments such as urbanisation, client behaviour, water consumption, and climate change. All are developments with a considerable uncertainty factor. Yet, our distribution network must be future-proof, in every conceivable scenario, and able to provide the desired quality and quantity. An integrated consideration of performance, costs and risks is essential.

Reasons for more research

Replacement and maintenance
A considerable part of our distribution pipelines requires replacement or maintenance in the years to come. This offers opportunities, but challenges as well. As we once more have to make the design choices, we can design our distribution network as cost-effectively as possible. However, this may never be done at the expense of reliability. Whether to repair, replace or abandon shall be an integrated consideration.

Quality change in pipelines
Not only the water source is important for water quality. There are also factors following the treatment process that can influence water quality. Those are physical, chemical and biological processes. The interaction between pipeline (material), water flow and water quality is a subject that we still know too little about. Because of that, we may miss opportunities to accomplish optimisation.

New technological possibilities
Modelling, Internet-of-Things and smart inspection techniques: all are developments that we may use to enhance our achievements and expand our flexibility. The question is how to best integrate those in the design of existing and future networks.

Objectives of this research theme

  • Knowing the right (substantiated) design choices for a future-proof pipeline network that is ready for new techniques and that takes different scenarios into account;
  • Gaining insight into the processes that affect the water quality and water flow in the distribution network;
  • The development of knowledge, insight and techniques that contribute to an optimised replacement policy.


Designing a future-proof network
The goal of this work package is gaining insight into designing a future-proof distribution network that is ready for future technological developments (such as online monitoring and internal inspections), and able to respond quickly to unexpected incidents, while guaranteeing 24/7 reliability.

Optimisation of maintenance and remediation
The goal of this work package is the further development of knowledge and technologies (such as inspection technologies for pipelines) for integrally assessing maintenance and remediation issues (based on achievements, costs and risks).

Optimal drinking water quality for the client
The goal of this work package is to gain insight into factors that may influence the water quality in the pipelines, to be able to predict these (for example through data analysis and modelling) and to minimise the risks that may affect the water quality. This includes physical, chemical and (micro-) biological water quality processes, as well as interaction with the pipeline material.

Questions, recommendations or advice?

Theme ambassador Eelco Trietsch can be contacted through

Projecten binnen Distributie