UK WATER INDUSTRY RESEARCH

My UKWIR

Big question

How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards (at point of use) by 2050?

Drinking water quality is of key importance to public health, and the provision of safe drinking water has been recognised as one of the greatest technological and public health advances of the last century. The current system of delivering safe water to consumers in the UK is based upon significant investment in infrastructure and performs at an excellent standard at a very low cost. However, the future challenges of climate change, energy efficiency, population growth, and an aging infrastructure mean that the traditional ways of providing safe water may need to change.

If we want to achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards (at point of use) by 2050 we need considerable research and development in this area. We have created a strategic research programme help us achieve this.

To support the development of this programme a report was commissioned to identify the prioritised research needs. Each drinking water contaminant or issue was allocated a score for knowledge and risk to drinking water quality, based on literature reviews and workshop discussions. This process enabled contaminants that had research gaps, but which contributed a low risk, to be removed as a research need at this time.

Once we understood our research needs, we produced a route map – this is a plan as to how we will answer our Big Question.

This is described below, and you can download the whole thing as a PDF below. It is important to know that the route map may change as the programme develops.

RESEARCH Outcomes







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Projects


 

BQ - Achieving 100% compliance with drinking water standards at point of use by 2050? Taste and Odour: Methods of Detection

Project Status - Project Commenced

To provide the water industry with a quantitative method of measuring Taste and Odour

Problem

The taste & odour (T&O) of water supplied to customers affects their perception of the quality of that water. When Water Companies receive contacts from customers about T&O, it is often difficult to pin down the root cause and to rectify it. We need a better understanding of the causes of T&O and understand what causes the customer to react.

Customer sensitivity to T&O causing compounds varies widely, as it does for those investigating them. The current method of analysing T&O is qualitative and subjective; a taste panel based on a limited number of descriptors. At present, we only have analytical methods for a small proportion of T&O causing compounds.

Impact

Unless T&O can be accurately measured and understood the risk of performance commitment penalties increases. It also leads to reputational impacts and a high number of customer complaints. 

Project

This project forms part of UKWIR’s Big Question ‘How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050?’

 The project will improve our understanding of T&O by developing analytical methodologies and exploring the links between the molecular chemistry and the sensing that triggers customer contacts.


 

BQ - Achieving 100% compliance with drinking water standards at point of use by 2050? - Phase 2 - Understanding DBP formation: Interpretation of laboratory experiments to operational conditions

Project Status - Project Commenced

Category - Drinking Water


 

BQ How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050? Risk assessment of CIP data with respect to implications for drinking water sources

Project Status - Project submitted as Complete

Category - Environment & Quality

Project Outputs

The main outputs of this project are:

Understand the risks of emerging contaminants to drinking water quality

Demonstrate to customers and regulators that the water industry is evaluating emerging risks to water quality

This desktop study will identify any materials of concern and allow the second phase of the project to be properly scoped and ensure the appropriate research organisation is identified to take this forward.


 

BQ - Achieving 100% compliance with drinking water standards at point of use by 2050? Protecting water quality in the home (domestic fixtures & fittings)

Project Status - Expressions of Interest

To understand the potential contribution from customers’ fixtures and fittings to the risk of lead, nickel and chromium concentrations failing drinking water standards, with a particular focus on lead.

Problem
We currently know the concentrations of lead, nickel and chromium typically detected at the customers’ tap. This water has travelled through the communication pipes, supply pipes and associated fittings. However, we do not have an understanding of the relative contributions of pipework and fittings within the customers’ property.

Impact
Lead has been identified as a cumulative neurotoxin with no discernible no-effect threshold and we therefore seek ways to reduce levels further. The industry is now driving for compliance at a lower standard - 10µg/l, and discussions around revisions around the Drinking Water Directive indicate an even lower 5µg/l standard in the future.

There is an increased risk, therefore, of failing the drinking water standards due to customers’ fixtures and fittings. There is also an unknown risk associated with lead compliance if the water industry stops phosphate dosing. This situation would occur when all lead pipes within water company ownership have been replaced.

Project
This project forms the second project that looks at lead within UKWIR’s Big Question ‘How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050?’.

The project will build on previous UKWIR research into lead, such as project DW/15/04/16: Brass fittings as a source of lead & nickel in drinking water – long term leaching studies. What is different about this project is that it will look at fixtures and fittings, along with water quality, in a non-controlled environment, in customers’ properties. This project will help us understand the prevalence and relative contribution of lead.

As this project surveys and samples customers’ property it will be vital to get the UK and Ireland Public Health Bodies involved.


 

BQ How do we achieve 100% compliance with drinking water standards by 2050? Better understanding of the chemistry of the control of lead

Project Status - Project Commenced

Category - Drinking Water

To advance the water industry’s understanding of the chemistry that controls the solubility of lead and the conditions which influence the efficacy of phosphate in plumbosolvency control.

Problem

Much of the underlying work on lead compliance is based on an empirical understanding of the behaviour of lead compounds formed on the surface of pipes. This is the basis which the Industry uses to deploy high OPEX phosphate dosing and high CAPEX limited impact lead pipe replacement.  

The industry is now driving for compliance at a lower standard - 10µg/l and the DWI have commented that they are ‘minded to support’ an even lower 5µg/l standard in the future.

Impact

The key mitigations deployed to date have needed considerable capital or operational costs. The approach of phosphate dosing relies on very complex chemistry and the majority of research on this took place 15-30 years ago when the regulatory standard changed from 100µg/l to 50µg/l. It is not clear how we will meet the lower levels of compliance.


 

Real time monitoring of bacteria downstream of WTWs

Project Status - Project Commenced


 

BQ - Achieving 100% compliance with drinking water standards at point of use by 2050? - Phase 2 - Intensifying Natural Processes

Project Status - Project Commenced

Category - Drinking Water



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