AbstractWater distribution networks (WDNs) are systems of water distribution used in urban centers and industrial processes that require efficient design and operation, which may be achieved through effective application of optimization methods. This article provides a comprehensive, systematic overview of the most approached methods for numerical optimization and their application to WDN design and operation. The main optimization methods are briefly discussed. Additionally, a single- and multiobjective optimization problem is generally formulated, and the main objectives, decision variables, and constraints for the design, rehabilitation, and operation of WDNs are summarized and explained. Finally, literature pertaining to the deterministic and heuristic optimization models of WDNs is overviewed and categorized and the advantages and disadvantages of these methods in this domain are included, along with some directions for further researches. The author concluded that further research in heuristics should focus on hybrid methods and hyperheuristic techniques for optimizing WDNs, and in addition to the traditional WDN steady-state optimization, it is advisable to address more sustainably the transient design optimization of these networks.