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Agent-Based Modeling to Simulate Contamination Events and Evaluate Threat Management Strategies in Water Distribution Systems

Authors

  • Emily M. Zechman

    Corresponding author
      Address correspondence to Emily M. Zechman, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, 3136 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA; ezechman@tamu.edu.
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Address correspondence to Emily M. Zechman, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, 3136 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA; ezechman@tamu.edu.

Abstract

In the event of contamination of a water distribution system, decisions must be made to mitigate the impact of the contamination and to protect public health. Making threat management decisions while a contaminant spreads through the network is a dynamic and interactive process. Response actions taken by the utility managers and water consumption choices made by the consumers will affect the hydraulics, and thus the spread of the contaminant plume, in the network. A modeling framework that allows the simulation of a contamination event under the effects of actions taken by utility managers and consumers will be a useful tool for the analysis of alternative threat mitigation and management strategies. This article presents a multiagent modeling framework that combines agent-based, mechanistic, and dynamic methods. Agents select actions based on a set of rules that represent an individual's autonomy, goal-based desires, and reaction to the environment and the actions of other agents. Consumer behaviors including ingestion, mobility, reduction of water demands, and word-of-mouth communication are simulated. Management strategies are evaluated, including opening hydrants to flush the contaminant and broadcasts. As actions taken by consumer agents and utility operators affect demands and flows in the system, the mechanistic model is updated. Management strategies are evaluated based on the exposure of the population to the contaminant. The framework is designed to consider the typical issues involved in water distribution threat management and provides valuable analysis of threat containment strategies for water distribution system contamination events.

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