Selecting and prioritizing monitoring locations (zones) in a water distribution network (DN) involves complex decision-making that warrants the use of risk-based decision-making. This paper couples the concept of risk with fuzzy sets and provides a simple approach to prioritizing monitoring locations in a DN. An index-based approach is proposed to estimate vulnerability, sensitivity and risk indices at a given DN location. The approach is based on fuzzy-based techniques that include fuzzy synthetic evaluation and fuzzy rule-base. Two types of analyses (deterministic and probabilistic) are used to demonstrate the proposed approach for a DN in Quebec City (Canada). Fifteen ‘input factors’ related to structural integrity, hydraulics, water quality and consumer sensitivity are used in the analyses. Based on the risk index results, the DN is divided into two parts. Sensitivity analysis results reveal that four factors, including two sensitivity factors (i.e. % population < 5 and > 75 yr) and two vulnerability factors (free residual chlorine and pipe breaks), explain 85% of the risk index variability. The usefulness of the proposed approach is demonstrated and strategies to improve the model are discussed.