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The paper describes a hierarchical approach to the online control of a large water-supply scheme. The approach is based on the concept of decomposing the original control problem into a set of interacting subproblems, which are easier to handle, and within which control effort is subdivided into a hierarchy of control functions of ascending complexity. The scheme provides a suitable framework for the overall control of a water-supply network including optimal pumping control, short term demand forecasting and anomalous-load detection, all performed online on acentral computer and implemented on the plant via a telemetry scheme. The authors are working on a collaborative university-industry project for the introduction of such a hierarchical computer control scheme for a UK water-supply system. The details of each of the layers of control are described and the proposed implementation via linked computers is discussed. The primary effort of the paper is in the presentation of a unified approach to the online control of water-supply systems and the practical application of the scheme to a real network problem.