Assessment of Risk for Southeast Michigan’s Drinking Water Transmission System

Detroit, Michigan, USA

The majority of Metro Detroit's water transmission system was installed during decades of urban growth, most notably during the 1920’s and 1960’s. The University of Michigan is developing a structural reliability framework to quantify the probability of failure of pipe segments throughout GLWA's fresh water transmission system.

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Infrastructure risk assessment at its very core enumerates the probability of exceeding specified performance limit states that have measurable consequences.

The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) manages a large and diverse set of linear infrastructure vital to the delivery of drinking water to communities across the Detroit metropolitan region including customers in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, Macomb, Genessee, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties. The majority of the water transmission system was installed during decades of urban growth in Detroit, most notably during the 1920’s and 1960’s. Evidence of age of the transmission system has been the number of notable water main failures over the past few years with the largest of these occurring in late 2017 along 14 Mile Road. These failures have caused widespread water advisories and boil water alerts. GLWA has begun to undertake an aggressive plan to assess the condition of the network and to develop a comprehensive risk management strategy to guide authority decisions on inspection, maintenance and replacement.

Infrastructure risk assessment at its very core enumerates the probability of exceeding specified performance limit states that have measurable consequences. In the context of a water transmission system, the most common limit state considered are points of failure in the network; however, “lower” limit states (e.g., reductions in pipe condition) can also be considered as integral to a water system’s risk management strategy. For this project, failure in the GLWA transmission system will be explicitly considered including physical failure of the system pipes (e.g., rupture), valves or pumps. Prior work in the field has largely explored estimating the probability of failure of network components based on a range of time-in-service metrics. However, this project will embrace a more rigorous and quantitative approach to assessing risk in a water transmission system. Structural reliability methods will be used to as an elegant framework based on structural mechanics to estimating the probability of failure of system components.  In such an analysis, the load demand on the asset and its inherent structural capacity are considered in a probabilistic manner. Metrics such as the first-order reliability index provide a scalar metric that can be used to quantify in a rigorous manner the margin between statistical distributions of demand and capacity. This project will adopt this structural reliability framework to quantify the probability of failure of pipe segments under anticipated loads induced by transmission system service. A prototype risk assessment framework will be provided to GLWA decision makers at the end of the project.

Funding Source

Great Lakes Water Authority

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