Protection of the water system is paramount due to the negative consequences of contaminated water on the public health. Water resources are one of the critical infrastructures that must be preserved from deliberate and accidental attacks. Water qualities are examined at the treatment plant. However, its quality can substantially be contaminated during transportation from the plant to the consumers’ taps. Contamination in water distribution networks (WDNs) is a danger that can have severe consequences on public health as well as an economic and social instability. Water distribution networks are immensely susceptible to deliberate or accidental attacks due to the complex nature of the system. Hence, contamination source identification (CSI) is a topical issue in water distribution systems that require immediate attention of researchers in order to protect mankind from the adverse effect of consuming contaminated water. Usually, a contaminant event can be detected by the water quality monitoring sensors or the contaminant warning system (CWS) installed on the network. Nevertheless, how to derive the source of the contamination from the collected information is a difficult task that must be tackled in order to evaluate the spread of the contamination and for immediate remedial strategies. In the past two decades, considerable efforts and advancement have been made by researchers applying various techniques in order to locate the source of the contamination in WDNs. Each of the techniques has certain limitations and applicability as reported in the literature. This paper presents a comprehensive review of the existing techniques with emphasis on their importance and technical challenges. Despite a series of investigations in this domain, the field is yet to be unified. Hence, open research areas are still available to explore. Consequently, improvement on the existing techniques is necessary and hereby suggested. More importantly, practical application of these techniques offer a major research gap that must be addressed.
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