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The Role of Intuition in Wastewater Management Decisions

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During the recent hurricane event that affected much of Virginia, many water and wastewater utilities were faced with a reliance on backup power generation. The decision to establish backup power generation is a costly investment for a utility service especially when weighed against its rather infrequent need. The perception of this economic burden weighed against infrequent use can cause decision makers at the utility service to conclude that either no backup power generation is required or that old, unreliable backup power systems are sufficient. In either case, a risk is assumed. The recent hurricane event provided these wastewater engineers with a realistic view of the importance of a reliable backup power system, as well a new set of criteria upon which to base this decision.

This paper will examine alternative approaches that can be used to make decisions regarding backup power generation for the Noman M. Cole, Jr. Pollution Control Plant Plant (NMCPCP) in Fairfax County Virginia. The first approach is based on a purely analytical evaluation and the second incorporates engineering judgment and intuition. Alternatives for backup power generation are ranked. The differences in value among ranked ordered alternatives are evaluated for both the analytical and intuitive approaches. This evaluation highlights the differences that exist between the analytical and the intuitive decision making process and lends understanding to the soundness of alternative recommendations. This paper attempts to try to unlock the inherent subjectivity that is involved in decision-making and explains some of the difficulty involved with value structure articulation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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