Multi-criteria Decision - Support Methodology
William Hogrewe, RCAC

Research Approach

The approach will begin with a query of technical assistance providers who work with small systems. The query will investigate the reasons why innovative treatment systems have failed (or succeeded?) in the past. The data will be compiled and presented in a concise matrix to be used to define key characteristics that must be considered by decision-makers when evaluating the suitability of any given innovative technology. The matrix will be vetted with select regulators, engineers, operators, system managers, and community leaders.

A generalized methodology will be created that can be utilized to evaluate systems and technologies with the purpose of determining whether an innovative technology is feasible and optimal for a specific small system’s needs. This methodology will be designed to be incorporated into a conventional evaluation-of-alternatives approach to treatment process selection, but will go beyond current practice to include innovative technologies, cumulative risk, and comparative sustainability. The methodology will have three components. The first component will provide a template for systematically gathering and documenting information on innovative technologies. The second component will provide a procedure to assess the technical, managerial, and financial capacity of a given community. The third component will include activities evaluating communities’ ability to adopt innovative technologies. The components are summarized below.

  1. Analyze the needs, resources, and limitations of a community: a. Source water issues, b. Monitoring history, c. Sanitary survey reports, d. Compliance history, e. TMF assessment of treatment and distribution, f. Anticipated future needs, and g. Gather information for use in the Risk Index and Sustainability Index analyses (refer to Activity 1 and 2)
  2. Characterize innovative treatment technologies: a. what is the treatment objective (what water quality issue does it address), b. What are the TMF capacity requirement (chemicals, energy, operator expertise (need-to-know criteria), and maintenance needs), c. Technical constraints (Inhibiting contaminants or conditions, flow rate, expandability and aesthetic concerns), d. Life cycle costs at several flow capacities, and e. Gather information for use in the Risk Index and Sustainability Index analyses (refer to Activity 1 and 2).
  3. Evaluation and ranking of alternatives using a procedure that: a. Determines feasibility of each alternative, b. Applies a weight to each characteristic, c. Applies a rating to each characteristic for each technology, d. Incorporate the results of the Risk Index and Sustainability Index analyses (refer to Activity 1 and 2), e. Calculates a rank using weight and rating, and f. Tests sensitivity of conclusion

Findings from the above methodology will be used to develop an implementation plan for the innovative technology in the community. The implementation plan will: a. Determine what changes to the technology or the community will make the application more successful (provide a feedback loop to process researchers on how to improve their processes); b. Coach process researchers on the development of operation and maintenance guidance materials to be used by operations staff; and c. Incorporate performance monitoring data from the pilot installations and obtain feedback from operators and managers

The approach in general and the evaluation methodology in particular, will be formalized, documented, and disseminated to facilitate use by others. A concise and user-friendly system for accessing data and information on innovative treatment technologies for small systems will be created so that stakeholders/potential users can access the evaluation methodology, learn how installations of specific technologies are working, and have access to up-to-date information on the benefits and constraints of innovative technologies. A portal will be created so that other researchers can add information on their technologies to the data system. Papers, workshops, and presentations will be developed and presented to aid in the dissemination of information on the multi-criteria decision support methodology. A national implementation plan will be developed to institutionalize use of this methodology among Technical Assistance Providers in the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) network including resource materials for their use.