Development of a System Dynamics Model for Improving Sustainable Urban Water Management (Case Study: Isfahan City)

Document Type : Case study


1 PhD. Candidate, Faculty of Civil, Water and Environmental Engineering, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

2 Assist. Prof., Faculty of Civil, Water and Environmental Engineering, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

3 Prof., Institute of Water and Energy, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran; Prof., Faculty of Civil Engineering and Institute of Environment, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran


The use of a systematic view has increased to deal with social and environmental problems in recent years. Recently, various models have been developed to address urban water issues. Most of them are focused on runoff and storm water management and few have addressed the problems of the Drinking water system. However, the lack of an effective model that supports complex and multi-objective urban water system in terms of management and decision-making is felt. This article focuses on the importance of a sustainable approach to the conventional approach in urban water management and the need to change attitudes due to the current state of water resources. In this paper a novel system dynamics model has been developed, taking into account the technical, economic, social, environmental and government subsystems that simulate and predict the results of urban water management measures. The results of the implementation of the proposed model on the city of Isfahan showed that the model has a high precision in simulating system condition. The model error rate in simulation of different parameters is less than 5%. Therefore, the model can be used as a tool for analyzing different management strategies before implementing and spending time and cost to assist decision makers.


Ahmad, S. & Simonovic, S. P. 2004. Spatial system dynamics: new approach for simulation of water resources systems. Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, 18, 331-340.
Ahmadi, M. H. & Zarghami, M. 2019. Should water supply for megacities depend on outside resources? a Monte-Carlo system dynamics simulation for Shiraz, Iran. Sustainable Cities and Society, 44, 163-170.
Ahmadi, Z., Safavi, H. R. & Kerachian, R. 2020. Assessment of water resources policies under incomplete information using Signaling Game, case study: ZayandehRud River Basin. Iran-Water Resources Research, 16, 253-274. (In Persian)
Bach, P. M., Deletic, A., Urich, C. & Mccarthy, D. T. 2018. Modelling characteristics of the urban form to support water systems planning. Environmental Modelling and Software, 104, 249-269.
Bach, P. M., Deletic, A., Urich, C., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., Rauch, W., et al. 2013. Modelling interactions between lot-scale decentralised water infrastructure and urban form–a case study on infiltration systems. Water Resources Management, 27, 4845-4863.
Bach, P. M., Rauch, W., Mikkelsen, P. S., Mccarthy, D. T. & Deletic, A. 2014. A critical review of integrated urban water modelling–Urban drainage and beyond. Environmental Modelling and Software, 54, 88-107.
Brown, R. R., Keath, N. & Wong, T. H. 2009. Urban water management in cities: historical, current and future regimes. Water Science and Technology, 59, 847-855.
Correia De Araujo, W., Oliveira Esquerre, K. P. & Sahin, O. 2019. Building a system dynamics model to support water management: a case study of the semiarid region in the Brazilian Northeast. Water, 11, 2513.
Dotto, C. B. S., Mannina, G., Kleidorfer, M., Vezzaro, L., Henrichs, M., Mccarthy, D. T., et al. 2012. Comparison of different uncertainty techniques in urban stormwater quantity and quality modelling. Water Research, 46, 2545-2558.
Elliott, A. & Trowsdale, S. A. 2007. A review of models for low impact urban stormwater drainage. Environmental Modelling and Software, 22, 394-405.
Etaat, J. & Salehian, S. 2020. Evaluation of “Supply and consumption”, and instability of water resources in Zayandeh-Rud River Basin. Irrigation and Water Engineering, 10, 142-158.
Forrester, J. W. 1961. Industry Dynamics. MIT Press, Massachusetts, USA.
Hashempour Bakhtiari, P., Nikoo, M. R., Izady, A. & Talebbeydokhti, N. 2020. A coupled agent-based risk-based optimization model for integrated urban water management. Sustainable Cities and Society, 53, 101922.
Howe, C., Butterworth, J., Smout, I., Duffy, A. & Vairavamoorhty, K. 2011. Sustainable Water Management in the City of the Future: findings from the SWITCH Project. UNESCO-IHE, The Netherlands.
Isfahan Municipality 2018. Statistical Yearbook of Isfahan. Isfahan, Iran. (In Persian)
Jeppsson, U., Pons, M. N., Nopens, I., Alex, J., Copp, J., Gernaey, K., et al. 2007. Benchmark simulation model no 2: general protocol and exploratory case studies. Water Science and Technology, 56, 67-78.
Makropoulos, C. K., Natsis, K., Liu, S., Mittas, K. & Butler, D. 2008. Decision support for sustainable option selection in integrated urban water management. Environmental Modelling and Software, 23, 1448-1460.
Marlow, D. R., Moglia, M., Cook, S. & Beale, D. J. 2013. Towards sustainable urban water management: a critical reassessment. Water Research, 47, 7150-7161.
Mirchi, A., Madani, K., Watkins, D. & Ahmad, S. 2012. Synthesis of system dynamics tools for holistic conceptualization of water resources problems. Water Resources Management, 26, 2421-2442.
Mitchell, V. G. 2006. Applying integrated urban water management concepts: a review of Australian experience. Environmental Management, 37, 589-605.
Mitchell, V. G., Duncan, H., Inman, M., Rahilly, M., Stewart, J., Vieritz, A., et al. 2007. State of the art review of integrated urban water models. 6th International Conference on Sustainable Techniques and Strategies in Urban Water Management -Novatech 2007, Villeurbanne France.
Mosleh, L. & Negahban-Azar, M. 2021. Role of models in the decision-making process in integrated urban water management: a review. Water, 13, 1252.
Murray-Rust, H., Sally, H., Salemi, H. & Mamanpoush, A. 2000. An overview of the hydrology of the Zayandeh Rud Basin. IAERI-IWMI Research Reports, 3, 52-54.
Nguyen, T. T., Ngo, H. H., Guo, W. & Wang, X. C. 2020. A new model framework for sponge city implementation: emerging challenges and future developments. Journal of Environmental Management, 253, 109689.
Novotny, V., Ahern, J. & Brown, P. 2010. Water Centric Sustainable Communities: Planning, Retrofitting, and Building the Next Urban Environment, Hoboken, John Wiley & Sons. New Jersey, USA.
Peña-Guzmán, C. A., Melgarejo, J., Prats, D., Torres, A. & Martínez, S. 2017. Urban water cycle simulation/management models: a review. Water, 9, 285.
Pérez-Uresti, S. I., Ponce-Ortega, J. M. & Jiménez-Gutiérrez, A. 2019. A multi-objective optimization approach for sustainable water management for places with over-exploited water resources. Computers and Chemical Engineering, 121, 158-173.
Phan, T. D., Bertone, E. & Stewart, R. A. 2021. Critical review of system dynamics modelling applications for water resources planning and management. Cleaner Environmental Systems, 2, 100031.
Philip, R., Anton, B. & Van Der Steen, P. 2015. Strategic planning–preparing for the future. SWITCH training kit module 1. Integrated Urban Water Management in the City of the Future. ICLE I European Secretariat GmbH, Freiborg, Germany.
Pingale, S. M., Jat, M. K. & Khare, D. 2014. Integrated urban water management modelling under climate change scenarios. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 83, 176-189.
Pluchinotta, I., Pagano, A., Vilcan, T., Ahilan, S., Kapetas, L., Maskrey, S., et al. 2021. A participatory system dynamics model to investigate sustainable urban water management in Ebbsfleet Garden City. Sustainable Cities and Society, 67, 102709.
Polonenko, L. M., Hamouda, M. A. & Mohamed, M. M. 2020. Essential components of institutional and social indicators in assessing the sustainability and resilience of urban water systems: challenges and opportunities. Science of The Total Environment, 708, 135-159.
Ramôa, A. R., Toth, E., Proença De Oliveira, R., Di Frederico, V., Montanari, A., et al. 2015. Review of Global Change Pressures on Urban Water Cycle Systems. Assessment of TRUST Pilots-D12.1a. Transitions to the urban water services of tomorrow, European Union.
Rehan, R., Knight, M. A., Haas, C. T. & Unger, A. J. 2011. Application of system dynamics for developing financially self-sustaining management policies for water and wastewater systems. Water Research, 45, 4737-4750.
Rehan, R., Knight, M. A., Unger, A. J. & Haas, C. T. 2013. Development of a system dynamics model for financially sustainable management of municipal watermain networks. Water Research, 47, 7184-7205.
Rezaee, H. & Shojaa, S. 2020. Estimation of price and Iincome elasticity of kermanshah drinking water demand. Journal of Water and Sustainable Development, 7, 12. (In Persian)
Safavi, H. R., Golmohammadi, M. H. & Sandoval-Solis, S. 2015. Expert knowledge based modeling for integrated water resources planning and management in the Zayandehrud River Basin. Journal of Hydrology, 528, 773-789.
Sahin, O., Siems, R. S., Stewart, R. A. & Porter, M. G. 2016. Paradigm shift to enhanced water supply planning through augmented grids, scarcity pricing and adaptive factory water: a system dynamics approach. Environmental Modelling and Software, 75, 348-36.
Sahin, O., Stewart, R. A. & Porter, M. G. 2015. Water security through scarcity pricing and reverse osmosis: a system dynamics approach. Journal of Cleaner Production, 88, 160-171.
Schmitt, T. & Huber, W. 2006. The scope of integrated modelling: system boundaries, sub-systems, scales and disciplines. Water Science and Technology, 54, 405-413.
Segrave, A., Pronk, W., Ramaker, T. & Zuleeg, S. 2007. Global trends affecting the water cycle. Winds of change in the world of water. Techneau Project, 1(7).
Sørup, H. J., Brudler, S., Godskesen, B., Dong, Y., Lerer, S. M., Rygaard, M., et al. 2020. Urban water management: can Un SDG 6 be met within the planetary boundaries? Environmental Science and Policy, 106, 36-39.
Statistical Centre of Iran, 2016. Census Report. Statistical Centre of Iran. (In Persian)
Stave, K. A. 2003. A system dynamics model to facilitate public understanding of water management options in Las Vegas, Nevada. Journal of Environmental Management, 67, 303-313.
Stavenhagen, M., Buurman, J. & Tortajada, C. 2018. Saving water in cities: assessing policies for residential water demand management in four cities in Europe. Cities, 79, 187-195.
Tahami Pour, M., Molaei, F. & Moshrefi, R. 2017. Determination of optimal price of domestic water in Tehran city using ramsey model. Iran-Water Resources Research, 17, 16. (In Persian)
Un-Desa, 2009. World Population Prospects: the 2008 Revision, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division. New York, United Nations.
UNESCO, 2009. World Water Assessment Programme, United Nations World Water Development Report 3: Water in a Changing World, Paris: UNESCO, and London: Earthscan, UNESCO - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Vakilifard, N., Bahri, P. A., Anda, M. & HO, G. 2019. An interactive planning model for sustainable urban water and energy supply. Applied Energy, 235, 332-345.
Van De Meene, S., Brown, R. R. & Farrelly, M. A. 2011. Towards understanding governance for sustainable urban water management. Global Environmental Change, 21, 1117-1127.
Venkatesh, G., Brattebø, H., Sægrov, S., Behzadian, K. & Kapelan, Z. 2017. Metabolism-modelling approaches to long-term sustainability assessment of urban water services. Urban Water Journal, 14(1), 11-22.
Wakeel, M., Chen, B., Hayat, T., Alsaedi, A. & Ahmad, B. 2016. Energy consumption for water use cycles in different countries: a review. Applied Energy, 178, 868-885.
Willuweit, L. & O'sullivan, J. J. 2013. A decision support tool for sustainable planning of urban water systems: presenting the dynamic urban water simulation model. Water Research, 47, 7206-7220.
Xu, Z., Yao, L. & Chen, X. 2020. Urban water supply system optimization and planning: bi-objective optimization and system dynamics methods. Computers and Industrial Engineering, 142, 106373.
Zarghami, M. & Akbariyeh, S. 2012. System dynamics modeling for complex urban water systems: application to the city of Tabriz, Iran. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 60, 99-106.
Zhang, Q., Smith, K., Zhao, X., Jin, X., Wang, S., Shen, J., et al. 2021. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with urban water infrastructure: what we have learnt from China's practice. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, 8, e1529.
Zomorodian, M., Lai, S. H., Homayounfar, M., Ibrahim, S., Fatemi, S. E. & El-Shafie, A. 2018. The state-of-the-art system dynamics application in integrated water resources modeling. Journal of Environmental Management, 227, 294-304.