Organization and scaling in water supply networks

Phys Rev E. 2017 Dec;96(6-1):062317. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.96.062317. Epub 2017 Dec 29.


Public water supply is one of the society's most vital resources and most costly infrastructures. Traditional concepts of these networks capture their engineering identity as isolated, deterministic hydraulic units, but overlook their physics identity as related entities in a probabilistic, geographic ensemble, characterized by size organization and property scaling. Although discoveries of allometric scaling in natural supply networks (organisms and rivers) raised the prospect for similar findings in anthropogenic supplies, so far such a finding has not been reported in public water or related civic resource supplies. Examining an empirical ensemble of large number and wide size range, we show that water supply networks possess self-organized size abundance and theory-explained allometric scaling in spatial, infrastructural, and resource- and emission-flow properties. These discoveries establish scaling physics for water supply networks and may lead to novel applications in resource- and jurisdiction-scale water governance.