Operations research to benefit resource planning

10 August 2016

The uncertainties caused by our ever-changing climate pose challenges for the management of water supplies. Factors such as supply and demand are unpredictable, and as a result, credible planning is required.

In order to resolve this challenge, ICS, a UK-based consulting firm, approached the University of Auckland’s Department of Engineering Science to provide the optimisation/analytics engine to drive a risk-based approach to assist water companies in resource planning and drought management in uncertain times.

The Department of Engineering Science’s Dr Michael O’Sullivan Jr and Associate Professor Cameron Walker worked with Dr Tim Watson from ICS, and this collaboration has resulted in the integration of new methodologies such as stochastic optimisation, customer valuation, and advanced visualisation.

This project also garnered interest from Professor Jim Hall at the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, leading to collaborating on research and the publication of a journal article, “Trading-off tolerable risk with climate change adaptation costs in water supply systems” in Water Resources Research.

Dr O’Sullivan and Asssociate Professor Walker are both specialists in Operations Research (OR), and they co-direct Operations Research Union Analytics (ORUA), a research group dedicated to combining operations research and analytics to improve a vast variety of systems. Among their more recent successes are the production of a cancer pathway mapping project to improve access to treatment for breast cancer patients at North Shore Hospital, Auckland.

Dr O’Sullivan believes that this is one of many examples that showcases the benefits of operations research and analytics to industry, and subsequently, our communities.

Read more about the ICS project here.