Abstract

Analyses of complex water management decision-making problems, involving tradeoffs amongst multiple criteria, are often undertaken using multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) techniques. Various forms of uncertainty may arise in the application of MCDA methods, including imprecision, inaccuracy or ill determination of data. The ELECTRE family methods deal with imperfect knowledge of data by incorporating ‘pseudo-criteria’, with discrimination thresholds, to interpret the outranking relation as a fuzzy relation. However, the task of selecting thresholds for each criterion can be difficult and ambiguous for decision-makers. In this paper, we propose a confidence-interval-based approach which aims to reduce the subjective input required by decision-makers. The proposed approach involves defining the uncertainty in the input values using confidence intervals and expressing thresholds as a function of the interval estimates. The usefulness of the approach is illustrated by applying it to evaluate the water supply and sewerage services in Spain. Results show that the confidence interval approach may be interesting in some cases (e.g. when dealing with statistical data from surveys or measuring equipment), but should never replace the preferences or judgments of the actors involved in the decision process.

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