Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Shikha Rahman


A water distribution system is composed of thousands of pipes of varying materials, sizes, and ages. These pipes experience physical, environmental, and operational factors that cause deterioration and ultimately lead to their failure. Pipe deterioration results in increased break rates, decreased hydraulic capacity, and adverse effects on water quality. Pipe failures result in economic losses to the governing municipality due to loss of service, cost of pipe repair/replacement, damage incurred due to flooding, and disruptions to normal business operations. Inspecting the entire water distribution system for deterioration is difficult and economically unfeasible; therefore, it benefits municipalities to utilize a risk assessment model to identify the most critical components of the system and develop an effective rehabilitation or replacement schedule.

This study compared two risk assessment models, a statistically complex model and a simplified model. Based on the physical, environmental, and operational conditions of each pipe, these models estimate the probability of failure, quantify the consequences of a failure, and ultimately determine the risk of failure of a pipe. The models differ in their calculation of the probability of failure. The statistically complex model calculates the probability of failure based on pipe material, diameter, length, internal pressure, land use, and age. The simplified model only accounts for pipe material and age in its calculation of probability of failure. Consequences of a pipe failure include the cost to replace the pipe, service interruption, traffic impact, and customer criticality impact. The risk of failure of a pipe is determined as the combination of the probability of failure and the consequences of a failure. Based on the risk of failure of each pipe within the water distribution system, a ranking system is developed, which identifies the pipes with the most critical risk. Utilization of this ranking system allows municipalities to effectively allocate funds for rehabilitation.

This study analyzed the 628-pipe water distribution system in the City of Buellton, California. Four analyses were completed on the system, an original analysis and three sensitivity analyses. The sensitivity analyses displayed the worst-case scenarios for the water distribution system for each assumed variable. The results of the four analyses are provided below.

Risk Analysis

Simplified Model

Complex Model

Original Analysis

All pipes were low risk

All pipes were low risk

Sensitivity Analysis: Older Pipe Age

Identified 2 medium risk pipes

Identified 2 medium risk pipes

Sensitivity Analysis: Lower Anticipated Service Life

Identified 2 medium risk pipes

Identified 9 high risk pipes and 283 medium risk pipes

Sensitivity Analysis: Older Pipe Age and Lower Anticipated Service Life

Identified 1 high risk pipe and 330 medium risk pipes

Identified 111 critical risk pipes, 149 high risk pipes, and 137 medium risk pipes

Although the results appeared similar in the original analysis, it was clear that the statistically complex model incorporated additional deterioration factors into its analysis, which increased the probability of failure and ultimately the risk of failure of each pipe. With sufficient data, it is recommended that the complex model be utilized to more accurately account for the factors that cause pipe failures.

This study proved that a risk assessment model is effective in identifying critical components and developing a pipe maintenance schedule. Utilization of a risk assessment model will allow municipalities to effectively allocate funds and optimize their water distribution system.

Keywords: Water Distribution System/Network, Risk of Failure, Monte Carlo Simulation, Normal Random Variable, Conditional Assessment, Sensitivity Analysis.