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IMG_5847 - CopyOn March 15, SAI hosted a meeting for the Boston Water Group, a diverse group of researchers and practitioners from academia, industry and civil-society, who are based in the Greater Boston region, but work across the U.S and around the world to address problems that involve water.

The discussion of this meeting mostly focused on the Delhi water crisis. The group discussed how similar infrastructure vulnerabilities – the risk/vulnerability associated with a single breakdown of a key conduit with cascading impacts – exist across many cities (including Boston) where water is piped from reservoirs 50 – 100+ km away.  However, redundancy in systems (such as backup reservoirs that are maintained in many Massachusetts towns) can help reduce the extent of the cascading impacts, according to participants.

A significant problem in Delhi is the social vulnerability of the populations impacted by infrastructure failure. However, the participants discussed how the exact mechanism of the canal break in Delhi (a protest unrelated to water) could not have been predicted, but one can imagine different scenarios that would lead to a single-point catastrophic failure (e.g. terrorism, natural disaster) in some canal or pipeline somewhere.

The canal damage in Delhi in February 2016 and the water distribution pipe blow-out in Massachusetts in 2010 both stopped a major flow to urban populations. However, the context in which these disruptions occurred (political, economic, governance institutions, social, etc) is so different, that attempting to draw any additional connection between these events may be unhelpful or lead to inaccurate characterization.

Participants discussed how groups can work together on water issues. Standardization can be developed by groups who voluntarily work toward consensus (e.g. OGC ) because all members benefit in some way from interoperability, or it can be required by law (e.g. federal standards). By developing and implementing standards, it provides the ability to transfer projects to different groups for implementation, management or oversight.

Learn more about the Boston Water Group.