Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) mineralisation, transformation and treatability in UK drinking water catchments

Started: October 2017

Supervisor: Professor Nigel Graham; Dr Michael Templeton; Dr Jonathan Ritson

Industry Partner: South West Water

Description of Research

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations are increasing in river systems which are sources for drinking water supplies. The increase is believed to be caused by a variety of factors including changes in climate, land use and sulphur deposition. Despite there being no guidelines on the maximum concentration of DOC in drinking water, particular components of the DOC are detrimental to the aesthetics of water, such as the colour, taste and odour. In addition, other important effects from the increasing DOC concentration are the production of disinfection by-products (e.g. chloroform) and the complexation of heavy metals, which are of public health concern and are formally regulated. As the treatment of water to remove DOC is a significant cost to water companies, both in terms of materials and energy costs, it is essential to improve our understanding of the factors affecting the mobilization and transport of DOC concentrations, and its impact on treatment. Although some work has been performed on the effects of climate change, little is known about the implications for surface water quality and drinking water treatment. Through a series of laboratory and modelling experiments, in collaboration with a UK water company and other university partners, this research aims to develop a greater understanding of the occurrence and nature of DOC in source waters, and to improve simulation models of future DOC concentrations under varying climatic scenarios.