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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P009441/1
Title: Human-Computer Optimisation for Water Systems Planning and Management (HOWS)
Principal Investigator: Savic, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Keedwell, Professor E
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr MS Morley
Project Partners:
AECOM Limited (UK) Bristol Water Plc Met Office
Mouchel Parkman Skipworth Engelhardt Ass.Man.Sys. SEAMS South West Water Ltd
Virtalis Ltd XP Software Solutions Ltd
Department: Engineering Computer Science and Maths
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2017 Ends: 31 January 2020 Value (£): 708,893
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Water Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Water
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Oct 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 4 October 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
It is widely acknowledged that the water and wastewater infrastructure assets, which communities rely upon for health, economy and environmental sustainability, are severely underfunded on a global scale. For example, a funding gap of nearly $55 billion has been identified by the US EPA (ASCE, 2011). In England and Wales, the total estimated capital value of water utility assets is £254.8 billion (Ofwat, 2015), but between 2010 and 2015 only £12.9 billion was allocated for maintaining and replacing assets. Combined with the drive to reduce customers' bills, there will be even more pressure on water companies to find ways to bridge the gap between the available and required finances. As a result of this it is not surprising that optimisation methods have been extensively researched and applied in this area (Maier et al., 2014).

The inability of those methods to include into optimisation 'unquantifiable' or difficult to quantify, yet important considerations, such as user subjective domain knowledge, has contributed to the limited adoption of optimisation in the water industry. Many cognitive and computational challenges accompany the design, planning and management involving complex engineered systems. Water industry infrastructure assets (i.e., water distribution and wastewater networks) are examples of systems that pose severe difficulties to completely automated optimisation methods due to their size, conceptual and computational complexity, non-linear behaviour and often discrete/combinatorial nature. These difficulties have first been articulated by Goulter (1992), who primarily attributed the lack of application of optimisation in water distribution network (WDN) design to the absence of suitable professional software. Although such software is now widely available (e.g., InfoWorks, WaterGems, EPANET, etc.), the lack of user under-standing of capabilities, assumptions and limitations still restricts the use of optimisation by practicing engineers (Walski, 20).

Automatic methods that require a purely quantitative mathematical representation do not leverage human expertise and can only find solutions that are optimal with regard to an invariably over-simplified problem formulation. The focus of the past research in this area has almost exclusively been on algorithmic issues. However, this approach neglects many important human-computer interaction issues that must be addressed to provide practitioners with engineering-intuitive, practical solutions to optimisation problems.

This project will develop new understanding of how engineering design, planning and management of complex water systems can be improved by creating a visual analytics optimisation approach that will integrate human expertise (through 'human in the loop' interactive optimisation), IT infrastructure (cloud/parallel computing) and state-of-the-art optimisation techniques to develop highly optimal, engineering intuitive solutions for the water industry.

The new approach will be extensively tested on problems provided by the UK water industry and will involve practicing engineers and experts in this important problem domain.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk