A framework is presented to effectively improve the water distribution system (WDS) reliability. The proposed framework first classifies pipes in a WDS into three reinforcement types through topological analyses and hydraulic simulations over the WDS; type 1: no reinforcement, type 2: increasing pipe durability, and type 3: installing valve(s) at both ends. Then two rules, rules 1 and 2, are implemented, in which rule 1 first reinforces the pipe with the lowest reliability but rule 2 preferentially reduces damage size by pipe failures represented as the expected number of customers out of service (EN). The proposed method was applied to Cherry Hill network, and considerably improved the WDS reliability from 0.137 to 0.483. Both approaches showed notable differences in changes of the EN at each step of reinforcement, where rule 2 showed a better capability to reduce the EN and detect vulnerable areas in the WDS than rule 1. In addition, a practical approach, maximizing valve installations and minimizing pipe replacements according to the reinforcement types in the system, provided an improved WDS reliability (0.423) close to that of the rule-based approach (0.483) using only 21% of the construction cost by the rule-based approach. The proposed framework can be guidelines for improving the WDS reliability under restricted budget and site conditions.
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