Elia Zanelli



PhD Project (ENG only)

Water Distribution Systems (WDSs) are strategic, infrastructural networks designed for providing potable water to consumers. However, WDSs face multiple challenges including ageing infrastructure, which includes ageing pipes and deteriorating components, water quality concerns, natural disasters, environmental emergencies, as well as intentional attacks. All of these have the potential to affect the level of service, sometimes also with negative effects on the quality of the resource, disrupting large portions of WDSs and causing damage to infrastructure and outages to costumers. Focusing on the qualitative issues, WDSs are exposed to different potential sources of both accidental and intentional contamination.

Contamination events lead to an adverse impact on public health within a population, interrupting the supply of safe water and reducing public confidence in the water supply. Consequently, water managers must pursue a continuous process of monitoring, control and operational management in order to guarantee the delivery of safe water. In the last few years, these issues have led to an increasingly awareness, by both national and international institutions, about the importance of evaluating the safety of WDSs from the potential risks of contamination, whether they arise from failures or from intentional or random attacks. To this, fundamental is the promotion of a holistic approach that shifts the focus from retrospective to pro-active control on distributed waters, based on risk prevention and assessment within the entire drinking water supply chain, modelled on Water Safety Plans (WSPs) developed by the United Nations. Water utilities and public institutions have recognized in WSPs a valid tool for a thorough identification of the various hazards and related impacts on a WDS, allowing to prioritize control measures and strategic interventions in order to enhance overall reliability.

Based on these premises, the aim of this research project is the evaluation of WDSs vulnerability to contamination events. Firstly, the project is going to focus on how the configuration of a WDS, with reference to its topological and hydraulic features, affects the tendency of an injected contaminant to spread over the network. Secondly, it is going to define integrated and comprehensive safety upgrading strategies in order to implement WDSs vulnerability reduction to contamination events.

The research project falls within the emerging field of intersectoral safety for disaster risks reduction and resilience, whose goal consists in defining and implementing effective and integrated methods and strategies for assessing, managing and improving safety and resilience.


in progress


in progress