Sustainability assessments of regional water supply interventions – Combining cost-benefit and multi-criteria decision analyses
Journal article, 2018

To cope with present and future challenges, a growing number of water utilities in Sweden, Europe and elsewhere initiate various forms of inter-municipal cooperations creating a new regional level of drinking water governance. In order to reach viable decisions of alternative ways forward, there is an international consensus that sustainability needs to be addressed in water supply planning, design and decision-making. There are, however, few decision aids focusing on assessing the sustainability of inter-municipal cooperations and the inter-municipal policies and interventions that regional decision-makers are faced with. This paper presents a decision support model based on a combination of cost-benefit analysis and multi-criteria decision analysis for assessing the sustainability of regional water supply interventions, including formations of inter-municipal cooperations. The proposed decision support model integrates quantitative and semi-quantitative information on sustainability criteria. It provides a novel way of presenting monetized benefits and costs, capturing utilitarian aspects of alternative interventions, with non-monetized social and environmental effects, capturing aspects based in the deontological theories of moral ethics. The model is based on a probabilistic approach where uncertainties are defined by statistical probability distributions. A case study is used to exemplify and evaluate model application in decision situations regarding regionalization, (de)centralization, source water quality and redundancy. All evaluated alternatives were expected to contribute to a slightly improved social sustainability, whereas the results were more varying in the economic and environmental domains. A structured and transparent treatment of uncertainties facilitates a better understanding of the results as well as communication between decision-makers, stakeholders and the community.

Sustainability criteria

Decision support

Drinking water supply

Multi-criteria decision analysis

Cost-benefit analysis

Inter-municipal cooperation


Karin Sjöstrand

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

DRICKS - Framework programme for drinking water research at Chalmers

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, GeoEngineering

Andreas Lindhe

DRICKS - Framework programme for drinking water research at Chalmers

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, GeoEngineering

Tore Söderqvist

Anthesis Enveco AB

Lars Rosen

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, GeoEngineering

DRICKS - Framework programme for drinking water research at Chalmers

Journal of Environmental Management

0301-4797 (ISSN) 1095-8630 (eISSN)

Vol. 225 313-324

Decision-support system for sustainable regional water supply

Formas (2015-130), 2015-09-01 -- 2018-12-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Civil Engineering

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences



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