Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Dr. Shikha Rahman



The network of pipes in potable water distribution systems (WDS) are comprised of thousands of pipes made of various materials including PVC, concrete, cast iron, and steel, among several others. The pipes are subjected to internal and external conditions that lead to their failure. Stress conditions include, but are not limited to internal pressures, traffic loading, and corrosion. The deterioration of a pipe decreases its mechanical strength which results in an increase of its probability of failure. Failures lead to loss of service which translates to loss of money due to the cost of repairs and buildup of traffic caused by street closures.

The focus of this study is the pipe network underneath cities that make it possible for communities to have access to potable water. The objective of this analysis is to evaluate the physical conditions of each pipe in a water distribution system in order to assess its probability of failure and ultimately calculate the risk associated with each pipe in the case that it were to fail. This model focuses only on the pipes of the WDS and does not take into consideration fittings, pumps, and other network components. This model assesses pipe age, material, diameter, internal pressure, traffic loading (industrial or residential), and length to determine the probability of failure. It then utilizes several economic factors such as material cost, customer criticality, demand, traffic impact, and land use to calculate the risk associated with each pipe. The risk associated with each pipe can then be used as a ranking system to identify the most vulnerable pipes, those with the highest economic impact upon failure. Identifying the pipes with the highest risk allows municipalities to better allocate funds for maintenance or replacement of pipes. It highlights the most critical pipes within a network of thousands.

In order to check its functionality, this model applied to the WDS of the City of Arroyo Grande, California. Information on the City’s distribution system was analyzed using Bentley’s WaterCAD, ESRI’s ArcGIS, MathWorks’ MATLAB and Microsoft’s Excel software to perform the analysis.

The risk analysis model provided 3 pipes within the distribution system made of cast iron as having a high probability of failure and a critical level of risk. A critical level of risk is defined as falling within the highest range of risk within this study. Considering that only 3 pipe segments were highlighted as having a Critical Risk, 4 as High Risk, and 6 as Medium Risk, in a system of 3572 pipes indicates that the model functions properly. This model was compared to a method developed by Jan C. Devera in his thesis “Risk Assessment Model for Pipe Rehabilitation and Replacement in a Water Distribution System” (2013), which was also applied to the City of Arroyo Grande’s distribution system. Results provided by this analysis prove that both models are functional due to similar results. The current study utilizes the concepts of random variables and conditional assessment to run various Monte Carlo Simulations as the means of calculating the probability of failure of a pipe. Mr. Devera’s model utilizes simplistic approach that does not involve intensive calculations, but results for both models turned out to be similar when looking at the Arroyo Grande distribution system.

This risk assessment model demonstrates that a risk assessment model can provide a framework to prioritize pipes based on risk. The approach can help create a schedule for a city’s pipe distribution network for maintenance and repair. It is important to note that it is not a predictive model. This study may be employed to better allocate funds for the rehabilitation and replacement of a city’s existing pipe network to promote optimal operating conditions and service to the public.