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Driving Decisions to Closure on Projects with Multiple Competing Priorities

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In recent years, the level of complexity on many water projects has dramatically increased due to a number of factors such as regionalization, regulations, budget and resource constraints, environmental and community concerns, and evolution of information technology. These factors often represent competing priorities and place decision-makers in the challenging position of mapping out a course of action that satisfies these competing priorities while sometimes dealing with hundreds of objectives and alternatives. In these situations, decision-makers are increasingly employing transparent and open processes involving a compilation of information and work sessions with stakeholders. Critical to the success of this process is the technique used to communicate the information to the participants and generate priorities for evaluating alternatives.

To drive decisions to closure on several complex water programs involving integration of technical, financial, envirionmental, community outreach, and mangement/organzational elements, O'Brien & Gere has applied a decision support system (DSS). This system engages decision-makers in a step-wise process for breaking down a complex problem into a series of smaller components proceeding from goals to criteria to actions. By applying simple pairwise comparisons, decision-makers make a series of simple judgements (subjective and objective) to arrive at the overall priorities for the alternatives.

This process can be used to address risk and uncertainty, identify likely outcomes, facilitate group decision-making, and select alternatives. This presentation will include a discussion of the challenges and insights associated with effective application of this technique for several case studies:

17 water utilities in central Kentucky which conducted a study to develop a regional potable water supply and system (drinking water regulations, 40 water supply alternatives, financial issues associated with water sales, new organization to oversee management and operation of the proposed regional waterworks facilities, interactive workshops and critical decision-making with the public and agencies personnel present).

Water utility in New York addressing regulatory compliance with Stage 2 Rule for covering of three open finished water reservoirs (drinking water regulations, 125 alternatives, financial considerations, regional agreements, historic preservation and community impacts, and reliability).

Water utility in New York considering replacement of water treatment plant versus purchase of wholesale water (environmental, governance/control, financial, raw and finished water quality, permitting, and public acceptance).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2008

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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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