Large water distribution systems (WDSs) are networks with both topological and behavioural complexity. Thereby, it is usually difficult to identify the key features of the properties of the system, and subsequently all the critical components within the system for a given purpose of design or control. One way is, however, to more explicitly visualize the network structure and interactions between components by dividing a WDS into a number of clusters (subsystems). Accordingly, this paper introduces a clustering strategy that decomposes WDSs into clusters with stronger internal connections than external connections. The detected cluster layout is very similar to the community structure of the served urban area. As WDSs may expand along with urban development in a community-by-community manner, the correspondingly formed distribution clusters may reveal some crucial configurations of WDSs. For verification, the method is applied to identify all the critical links during firefighting for the vulnerability analysis of a real-world WDS. Moreover, both the most critical pipes and clusters are addressed, given the consequences of pipe failure. Compared with the enumeration method, the method used in this study identifies the same group of the most critical components, and provides similar criticality prioritizations of them in a more computationally efficient time.

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