Abstract In order to make the water distribution network design more scientific and reasonable, the economy and reliability analysis should be considered. Firstly, the cost of pipeline construction is used as one objective. The sum of node surplus head and the node surplus head variance are used as another two objective functions. A multi-objective optimization model in water distribution system is established using a joint. MATLAB and EPANET platform, along with a non-dominated sorting genetic algorithm (NSGA-II) are applied to solve the optimization problem. Finally, a water supply network is employed to demonstrate to the application of this method. It is concluded that the multi-objective optimization model based on the non-dominated sorting genetic algorithm-II performed reasonably and effectively to solve optimization problem for water distribution system.