Research meetup 6 – Analytics for the Design of Gravity-Driven Water Distribution Systems for Poor Rural Communities: the NeatWork Tool
NeatWork is an optimization and simulation tool for the design of water-distribution systems with the aim of providing clean water to poor rural communities. The management of such systems must be cheap and simple, a requirement which prohibits power-driven equipment, such as pumps, and man-operated devices, such as regulators. Therefore, the physical system must be driven by gravity only. It must also be endowed with self-regulation to ensure flow invariance despite stochastic intermittent water withdrawals by independent users. The formulation as a least-cost design problem belongs to the realm of two-stage stochastic optimization, in which the second stage involves calculating flows as solutions of a system of nonlinear equations. The formulation and resolution of this complex stochastic programming problem goes far beyond the target application of the tool. Instead, NeatWork proposes a heuristic to generate designs in a first module, and a simulation tool in a second module for testing the flow patterns under large samples of realistic uses of the system. NeatWork has been used routinely for the past 15 years at Agua Para La Vida (APLV), a nongovernmental organization operating in Nicaragua. Despite the complexity of its stochastic approach, the tool is routinely used by technicians without supervision by qualified engineers.
Joint work with: Frédéric Babonneau, Gilles Corcos, Laurent Drouet