Selection of the Best Inland Waterway Structure: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis Approach


This study explains the role and effectiveness of Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) approaches for decision support to rank the best option(s) to reconstruct and rehabilitate the inland waterway structure by demonstrating a case study of River Ilmenau in Germany. Considering the involvement of several stakeholders and community with the status and functionality of the Ilmenau river, this paper also considers the importance of stakeholder participation in the decision making process by an intensive stakeholder interview. A total of 27 criteria were selected that represent a wide range of environmental and socio-economic aspects of the Ilmenau River and the activities related to this river. The ranking of the alternatives were performed by combining AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process) with PROMETHEE (Preference Ranking Organisation METHod for Enrichment Evaluations) to achieve a rigorous solution of the objective. 23 stakeholders such as decision-makers, experts, and researchers from environmental, administrative, recreational, and socio-economical fields were interviewed to determine the criteria to be weighed. The stakeholders’ opinions showed ecological continuity is one of the most important criteria to be considered. They also gave significant importance to nature protection laws and directives. Among the socio-economic criteria, flood protection was the most important one. Removal of weirs and installation of ground ramps was suggested to be the best option to consider for further investigation and implementation. This study clearly demonstrates the importance of stakeholder and community participation to decision-making process and contributes new information, especially stakeholders’ attitude towards decision making for water resources infrastructure selection.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. Barin A, Canha LN, Abaide AR, Magnago KF, Wottrich B, Machado RQ (2011) Multiple criteria analysis for energy storage selection. Energy Power Eng 3(4):557–564

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Belton V, Gear T (1983) On a shortcoming of Saaty’s method of analytic hierarchies. OMEGA Int J Manag Sci 11(3):228–230

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Brans JP (1982) The engineering of decision: Elaboration instruments of decision support method PROMETHEE. Laval University, Quebec, Canada.

  4. Brans JP, Mareschal B (1994) The PROMCALC & GAIA decision support system for multicriteria decision aid. Decis Support Syst 12:297–310

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brans JP, Mareschal B (2005) PROMETHEE methods. In: Figueira J, Greco S, Ehrgott M (eds) Multiple criteria decision analysis - state of the art surveys. Springer, New York, 163-195pp

    Google Scholar 

  6. Brans JP, Vincke P (1985) A preference ranking organisation method, the PROMETHEE method for MCDM. Manag Sci 31(6):647–656

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Brans JP, Vincke P, Mareschal B (1986) How to select and how to rank projects: the PROMETHEE method. Eur J Oper Res 24(2):228–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Charnes A, Cooper WW (1961) Management models and industrial applications of linear programming. Wiley, New York, 467p

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dunning DJ, Ross QE, Markhofer MW (2000) Multi attribute utility analysis; best technology available, adverse environmental impact. Clean water act; Section 316 (b)

  10. Eastman JR, Kyem PAK, Toledano J, Jin W (1993) GIS and decision making. United Nations Institute for Training and Research. Explorations in Geographic Information Systems Technology 4, 112

  11. Edwards W (1977) How to use multiattribute utility measurement for social decision making. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern SMC 7:326–340

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Feick RD, Hall GB (2004) A method for examining the spatial dimension of multi-criteria weight sensitivity. Int J Geogr Inf Sci 18(8):815–840

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Figueira J, Greco S, Ehrgott M (eds) (2005) Multiple criteria decision analysis: state-of-the art surveys. Springer. 1048pp

  14. Fontana ME, Morais DC (2013) Using Promethee V to select alternatives so as to rehabilitate water supply with detected leaks. Water Resour Manag 27:4021–4037

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Geldermann J, Spengler T, Rentz O (2000) Fuzzy outranking for environmental assessment. Case study, iron and steel making industry. Fuzzy Sets Syst 115:45–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Geng G, Wardlaw R (2013) Application of multi-criterion decision making analysis to integrated water resources management. Water Resour Manag 27:3191–3207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Giupponi C (2014) Decision support for mainstreaming climate change adaptation in water resources management. Water Resour Manag 28:4795–4808

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hajkowicz S, Collins K (2007) A review of multiple criteria analysis for water resources planning and management. Water Resour Manag 21:1553–1566

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kiker GA, Bridges TS, Verghese A, Seage PT, Linkov I (2005) Application of multicriteria decision analysis in environmental decision making. Integr Environ Assess Manag 1(2):95–108

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Luoma-aho V (2010) Emotional stakeholders, A threat to organizational legitimacy? Paper presented at the 60th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Singapore, 22.-26. June, 2010. 1–12

  21. Macharis C, Springael J, De Brucker K, Verbeke A (2004) PROMETHEE and AHP, the design of operational synergies in multicriteria analysis, strengthening PROMETHEE with ideas of AHP. Eur J Oper Res 153(2):307–317

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Mareschal B (1988) Weight stability intervals in multicriteria decision aid. Eur J Oper Res 33:54–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. NLWKN (2012) Machbarkeitsstudie. Umgestaltung der Bundeswasserstraße Ilmenau unter Beachtung der Anforderungen der Wasserrahmenrichtlinie (WRRL)

  24. PROMETHEE-GAIA (2012) How to choose the right preference function? Web, (accessed on March 2013)

  25. Rahman MA (2011) Decision support for Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Project planning to mitigate water scarcity based on non-conventional water resources. PhD Dissertation, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

  26. Roy B, Bouyssou D (1993) Aide multicritère à la décision, méthodes et cas. Economica, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  27. Saaty TL (1980) The analytical hierarchy process. McGraw-Hill, New York

    Google Scholar 

  28. Saaty TL (2001) Decision making with dependence and feedback, the analytic network process. RWS Publications, Pittsburg

    Google Scholar 

  29. Saaty TL, Vargas LG (1991) Prediction, projection and forecasting. Kluwer Academic, Boston

  30. Sharifi MA (2003) Spatial multi criteria decision making. Lecture Notes, ITC, Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  31. Stewart TJ (1992) A critical survey on the status of multiple criteria decision making theory and praxis. OMEGA Int J Manag Sci 20(5/6):569–586

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Store R, Kangas J (2001) Integrating spatial multi-criteria evaluation and expert knowledge for GIS-based habitat suitability modeling. Landsc Urban Plan 55:79–93

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Wedley WC (1993) Consistency prediction for incomplete AHP matrices. Math Comput Model 17(4/5):151–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt (WSA) Lauenburg, Germany for funding the study. Special thanks to Ms. Couzens for her enthusiastic cooperation during the study (August 2012- November 2012).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohammad Azizur Rahman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rahman, M.A., Jaumann, L., Lerche, N. et al. Selection of the Best Inland Waterway Structure: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis Approach. Water Resour Manage 29, 2733–2749 (2015).

Download citation


  • Multicriteria analysis
  • Decision support
  • Waterway structure
  • Ilmenau River
  • Germany