What is multi criteria decision making?

Published on: 26 February 2016

Multi criteria decision making is the process undertaken when choosing a course of action in response to multiple and conflicting water infrastructure objectives.

There will be a number of factors to consider when designing water infrastructure and a reasoned process which can be measured needs to be used to work out a compromise.

Multi criteria decision making methods allow us to choose a course of action in a logical and robust way. Most multi criteria decision making methods are based on applying numerical values to the comparison of objectives and criteria concepts. This can be done in two ways:

1. Satisficing – looking for a satisfactory outcome to all parameters.
2. Weighting – prescribing more importance to certain objectives.

To make a decision the objectives are defined and weighted accordingly, then each option is measured logically against the objectives. There are a wide variety of applications for multi criteria decision making in water engineering including source selection for new reservoirs, risk management and resource allocation.

James Webber is a PhD student studying as part of the Centre for Water Systems at the University of Exeter, and is also part of the Water Informatics Science and Engineering (WISE) Centre for Doctoral Training.

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