Generic Patterns in the Evolution of Urban Water Networks: Evidence from a Large Asian City

Published in Physical Review E, 2017

Recommended citation: Kreuger, E., Klinkhamer, C., Urich C., Zhan, X., and Rao, S. C., 2017. Generic Patterns in the Evolution of Urban Water Networks: Evidence from a Large Asian City. Physical Review E, 95(3), 032312.


We examine high-resolution urban infrastructure data using every pipe for the water distribution network (WDN) and sanitary sewer network (SSN) in a large Asian city (≈4 million residents) to explore the structure as well as the spatial and temporal evolution of these infrastructure networks. Network data were spatially disaggregated into multiple subnets to examine intracity topological differences for functional zones of the WDN and SSN, and time-stamped SSN data were examined to understand network evolution over several decades as the city expanded. Graphs were generated using a dual-mapping technique (Hierarchical Intersection Continuity Negotiation), which emphasizes the functional attributes of these networks. Network graphs for WDNs and SSNs are characterized by several network topological metrics, and a double Pareto (power-law) model approximates the node-degree distributions of both water infrastructure networks (WDN and SSN), across spatial and hierarchical scales relevant to urban settings, and throughout their temporal evolution over several decades. These results indicate that generic mechanisms govern the networks’ evolution, similar to those of scale-free networks found in nature. Deviations from the general topological patterns are indicative of (1) incomplete establishment of network hierarchies and functional network evolution, (2) capacity for growth (expansion) or densification (e.g., in-fill), and (3) likely network vulnerabilities. We discuss the implications of our findings for the (re-)design of urban infrastructure networks to enhance their resilience to external and internal threats.

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