This page has a brief overview of our research approach as well as a list of our funded projects.

Why Many-Objective Analysis?

Policy analysis and federal planning has often been based on cost benefit analysis. The approach asks, do estimates of a proposed project’s benefits outweigh the expected costs? This has led to extensive use of single-objective optimization (that is, try to maximize a benefit function).

Why look beyond cost benefit analysis?

  • Climate change and population growth complicate our traditional strategies for water supply. How can we project the proportion of water use needed for electricity generation, for example? USGS water withdrawal data shows that a larger percentage of water is used for these purposes now than in 1950. Will climate change cause this propotion to increase?
  • Under these conditions, it is difficult or impossible to commensurate all decision makers’ preferences into a single objective function. Using the example above, in extreme droughts, the preferences of electricity generators may strongly conflict with municipal supply, or there may not be enough water to meet environmental low flow conditions. This motivates a method to discover tradeoffs, both between different use categories and between different performance objectives (such as maintaining supply reliability).
  • Innovative solutions to these problems will likely require portfolios of management strategies. The portfolios could include improved management of existing supplies (new guide curves), new supplies such as desalination and water reuse, and transfers in water markets. Simulations of water supply portfolios are highly non-linear, with strong “threshold” effects based on decision maker actions. This motivates a method that can fully integrate complicated simulations into optimization and decision support.

Our group’s research advances a many-objective approach to water planning and management. We use advanced evolutionary search tools to develop tradeoffs for problem formulations that can explicitly show how conflicting objectives compare. For example, what is the cost of adding an additional unit of performance in a supply system? What is the highest level of environmental flow that can be achieved at every level of cost and reliability?

An important aspect of the approach is that trusted, full-complexity simulations are integrated into the search algorithm. It allows a rich level of detail in understanding the physical system, with all nonlinearities preserved when mapping decision maker actions to outcomes.

The search provides a number of diverse alternative designs for the system. Instead of trying to model decision makers’ preferences before the model runs are complete, we use an a posteriori approach that gives them a wealth of information to inform their selection. This is supported by interactive visualizations that provide an immersive experience where analysts can understand the implication of design decisions.

Funded Projects

1. Balancing Severe Decision Conflicts Under Climate Extremes in Water Resource Management
collaboration with Western Water Assessment

Principal Investigator: Lisa Dilling
Co-Principal Investigators: Joseph Kasprzyk, Kristen Averyt, Eric Gordon, Imtiaz Rangwala, Leon Basdekas, Laurna Kaatz
Funding Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Total Award: $276,064
Award Period: 8/1/2014-7/1/2016
Kasprzyk Support: 1 mo summer salary and support for one graduate student through project duration

Description: The project seeks to improve water management under climate change in the Front Range of Colorado by (i) holding a series of workshops with six Front Range water utilities to understand best practices for using Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithm (MOEA) based decision support and (ii) co-producing a water management test bed, which combines MOEAs, water system infrastructure models, and plausible climate change projections.

CU graduate student Rebecca Smith is funded on the project.


Above is the hypothetical water network model we developed in collaboration with stakeholders, for our demonstrations on the project.  Learn more about what we are working on, in our poster from DMDU 2016 here!!

2. Center for Effective Abatement of Nutrients (CLEAN)

Subaward to CU from Colorado State University
Principal Investigator: Mazdak Arabi
CU Investigators: Rajagopalan Balaji, JoAnn Silverstein, Joseph Kasprzyk
Funding Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Total Award: $2,220,150
Award Period: 9/1/2013-8/1/2017
Kasprzyk Support: 1 mo summer salary and student co-advised with R. Balaji, both in years 3-4

Description: The mission of the CLEAN center is to create knowledge, build capacity, and forge collaboration to develop and demonstrate sustainable solutions for reduction of nutrient pollution in the nation’s water resources.  Kasprzyk contributes to the decision support system developed in the second half of the project.

We are currently working with CU graduate student Bihu Suchetana on this project.

3. An integrated modeling and decision framework to evaluate adaptation strategies for sustainable drinking water utility management under drought and climate change

Principal Investigator: Kenan Ozekin (Water Research Foundation)
Investigators: Balaji Rajagopalan, Scott Summers, Fernando Rosario-Ortiz, Ben Livneh, Joseph Kasprzyk
Funding Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Total Award: $1,250,000
Award Period: 3/1/2015 – 2/28/2018
Kasprzyk Support: 1 mo summer salary and support for one graduate student through project duration

Description:  Drought due to climate change and other extreme events such as wildfire and floods challenge drinking water utilities’ ability to treat water to meet regulatory and public health protection goals, with turbidity and disinfection byproducts (DBPs) control as the critical water quality (WQ) issues The objectives of the research are to: (1) understand the flow and sediment generation from water supply watersheds in response to scenarios of hydro-climatological extremes and natural hazards, (2) understand the mobilization and transport of organic matter and sediments, and in some cases nutrients through the watershed and eventually to the water treatment plant (WTP), (3) develop source water thresholds for turbidity and DBP precursors based on finished water regulatory constraints and using stream WQ data with extreme value theory predict WQ threshold exceedences, and (4) evaluate a suite of adaptation and operation strategies (e.g., watershed management, wild fire mitigation, WTP modifications) along with their economic, societal and policy implications – with multi-objective optimization and multi-criteria analysis tools.

Graduate student Billy Raseman is funded on this project.


The figure above shows our conceptualization of the decision framework and the stressors to the system.  It is from our review paper of decision support in water treatment, available in accepted form here.  We also presented a poster on this work at the Decision Making Under Uncertainty workshop 2016, which you can see here.

4. Routes to Sustainability for Natural Gas Development and Water and Air Resources in the Rocky Mountain Region
The AirWater Gas Sustainability Research Network

Principal Investigator: Joseph N. Ryan
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Total Award: $11,999,328
Award Period: 10/01/2012 – 9/30/2017

Description: The broader project is a NSF Sustainability Research Network that seeks to provide better scientific understanding of unconventional oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountain region.  In April 2015, Kasprzyk was added to the project to aid in decision support for the project.  He advises one graduate student starting in April 2015 through the duration of the project and receives 1 month of summer salary per year.

CU graduate student Matt Alongi is funded on this project

5. Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need (GAANN)

A team of professors lead by Prof. Ross Corotis secured GAANN fellowships through the US Department of Education to work on the topic of community resilience.  Kasprzyk is a partner in this project, and starting in Fall 2016, graduate student and group member Melissa Estep will be funded through this fellowship.  Learn more about CU’s GAANN project here.

6. Collaborative Research: Multi-Model Bayesian Data-Worth Analysis for Groundwater Remediation Design

Investigators: Roseanna Neupauer, Joseph Kasprzyk (CU Boulder); Ming Ye (Florida State)
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Amount: $183,760
Period: 8/2016 – 7/2019
Support: 1 co-advised graduate student for duration of project, 1 month summer support per year
Description: The project addresses the challenge that groundwater remediation strategies often fail because they ignore model uncertainty.  The proposed research uses a multi-model data-worth analysis to improve groundwater remediation design.  The project also involves creating model surrogates to improve computational efficiency.

7. Design Optimization of Sustainable and Resilient Concrete Mixtures

Investigators: Wil Srubar, Joseph Kasprzyk, Leah Sprain
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Amount: $598,745
Period: 7/2016 – 6/2019
Support: 1 graduate student for duration of project, 1 month summer support per year
Description: The project addresses the challenge that conventional design of concrete mixtures employs time-intensive, trial-and-error approaches that do not offer optimal performing designs.  We will define, formulate, and link mathematical models that relate concrete mixture proportions to concrete performance, linking the models with multi-objective optimization.  The project will involve industry professionals in the development and testing of the methodology through interactive workshops, taking advantage of a collaboration with a communication sciences professor.

Incoming PhD student Mikaela DeRousseau will be funded on this project.


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