Date of Original Version



Technical Report

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Abstract or Description

Physical Technical Systems is a project course offered at Carnegie Mellon University. The course combines students from three disciplines, Engineering and Public Policy, Social and Decision Sciences and The School of Urban and Public Affairs, to examine a current national or regional issue. The students research the technical and policy aspects of the problem, apply analytical methods, and recommend a course of action.

The topic for the Fall 1988 project was the Pittsburgh region's current and future water supply. Two factors prompted the investigation into this issue; the Ashland oil spill and the $200 million investment that the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority made to upgrade its treatment, storage and distribution system. The Ashland oil crisis challenged the reliability and safety of the public water supply. Critics questioned the adequacy of the current system in the event of an emergency and recommended examining alternative means of providing a safe and reliable water supply. With the $200 million of capital improvements, Pittsburgh, with little additional cost, found that it could deliver some 30 million more gallons per day to neighboring communities. This posed the question of the cost effectiveness and feasibility of Pittsburgh marketing water to these communities for daily and/or emergency use.

The water distribution system in the Pittsburgh area consists of a variety of water facilities. First, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority supplies water to all but nine wards of the City of Pittsburgh and some surrounding boroughs. Second, the Western Pennsylvania Water Company is a private firm that provides management and distribution service in addition to the provision of water to nine wards of Pittsburgh, and townships and boroughs to the west and south of the city. The remaining regions are serviced by smaller independent systems that may or may not have physical connections to other systems. The students divided into groups to research four different water supply categories, and focused on the common themes of safety, reliability and cost effectiveness. Specifically, the emergency supply and response issues, the current infrastructure, the efficiency and equity of rates and the implications of public financing schemes were common areas of interest. The results from these four groups are contained in the first four chapters of this report. In addition, a fifth group the Regulatory group, examined the current regulatory climate that these water suppliers face.

The purpose of this investigation is to determine if the current water system will adequately meet the established, and proposed, regulations in terms of safety, reliability, and cost effectiveness by maintaining the status quo, as opposed to initiating other alternatives. Recommendations specific to the subject matter of each subgroup is presented at the end of each section. In addition, the final section probes the over-arching issues and problems that confront the Pittsburgh community water suppliers. The findings and recommendations of this study are relevant to the individual water systems as well as the communities they serve.


This study was conducted by a group of students in the School of Urban and Public Affairs, the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, and the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.