Accelerating hydrodynamic simulations of urban drainage systems with physics-guided machine learning

Rocco Palmitessa, Morten Grum, Allan Peter Engsig-Karup, Roland Löwe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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We propose and demonstrate a new approach for fast and accurate surrogate modelling of urban drainage system hydraulics based on physics-guided machine learning. The surrogates are trained against a limited set of simulation results from a hydrodynamic (HiFi) model. Our approach reduces simulation times by one to two orders of magnitude compared to a HiFi model. It is thus slower than e.g. conceptual hydrological models, but it enables simulations of water levels, flows and surcharges in all nodes and links of a drainage network and thus largely preserves the level of detail provided by HiFi models. Comparing time series simulated by the surrogate and the HiFi model, R2 values in the order of 0.9 are achieved. Surrogate training times are currently in the order of one hour. However, they can likely be reduced through the application of transfer learning and graph neural networks. Our surrogate approach will be useful for interactive workshops in initial design phases of urban drainage systems, as well as for real time applications. In addition, our model formulation is generic and future research should investigate its application for simulating other water systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number118972
JournalWater Research
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Hydrodynamic simulation
  • Scientific machine learning
  • Surrogate model
  • Urban drainage


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