Buried water infrastructure and artificial intelligence opportunities

Ed McBean and Brett Snider


Sustaining buried linear water infrastructure represents a huge challenge for cities around the world as there is little doubt that the world’s cities need a massive infusion of investment to sustain the existing infrastructure and to meet the growing urban environments in the future. Ensuring construction/repair/ replacement of water infrastructures (defined herein as buried water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure) is requiring very large expenditures and timely investments.  Severely complicating issues of where investments should take place as a priority must be based on timely knowledge of the existing condition of the buried linear infrastructure.  Circumstances of the conditions of buried infrastructure as pertinent to North America are reviewed.

Deterioration rates of infrastructure are much more complicated than basing only on pipe age.  In response, aspects of alternative artificial intelligence methodologies, including the application of Artificial Neural Networks and Gene Expression Programming are described in the presentation, as examples of highly efficient methodologies of siting where the buried infrastructure is most likely in jeopardy of failure.  Aging/deterioration of infrastructure, implications of urban growth, concerns with emerging contaminants, and climate change, are used to emphasize how municipal engineering needs to ensure that condition assessments of buried water infrastructure are efficiently identified for characterization, to reflect that the risks are effectively understood, and to improve decisions on maintenance/upgrade to enable sustainable infrastructure.     

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