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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.



A Look At Centralized, Decentralized and Hybrid Water Systems


Qilin Li, Ph.D., Environmental Engineering Program, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio, Ph.D., Civil Engineering Program, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Alireza Yazdani, Ph.D., Post-doctoral Research Associate, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Isabel Raciny, doctoral student, Rice University

Dr. Qilin Li 
 Duenas Osorio 5_11
Dr. Duenas Osorio 
Alireza Yazdani pic 
Dr. Alireza Yazdani
  Isabel Raciny
 Isabel Raciny 
Project Background

Water systems in many cities date back to the early 20th century, exceeding or approaching their lifespan. These centralized systems suffer from frequent leaks and failures, biofilm growth, and long transport distance from treatment facilities to end users, leading to water loss, microbial and chemical contamination, disruption in service, and high energy consumption. The long hydraulic residence time in large centralized systems also leads to formation of toxic chemicals such as disinfection byproducts (DBPs). On the other hand, water supply demand increases rapidly with population growth, while global climate warming leads to decrease in water resource.  There is urgent need to improve the reliability, integrity, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of the water infrastructure and to decrease the likelihood of failures, service disruptions and water quality deterioration for public health protection. This great challenge also presents an opportunity to reassess the century old centralized system design and consider a shift of paradigm in water infrastructure.

The objective of the proposed research is to compare the reliability, energy efficiency and public health related water quality of centralized, decentralized and hybrid water systems, and to develop guidelines for designing water infrastructure systems that incorporate energy-efficient and water-efficient as well as alternative water resource management practices. We will

• Study the effects of network topography on performance via numerical simulation and analytical formulations grounded on graph theory and system reliability, and unravel the connection between water system reliability and long term sustainability through decentralized and hybrid configuration principles;

• Modify existing hydraulics model to allow simulation of pumping energy consumption for decentralized and hybrid system and take into consideration of different treatment technologies;

• Incorporate chemical reaction kinetics model into the distribution system hydraulics model to simulate formation of a model DBP, trihalomethane, in centralized, decentralized and hybrid systems.



Project Update 

 View the final report: The Reliability, Efficiency and Treatment Quality of Centralized versus Decentralized Water Infrastructure.


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