News Items Archive 2011
Please note that, for some of the older entries, links may no longer be functional.
Lead and copper don’t mix
Research published in the Proceedings of the 2011 Water Quality Technology Conference
confirms that joining old lead pipes with new copper lines using brass fittings spurs galvanic corrosion that can dramatically increase the amount of lead released into drinking water supplies and last for a long time. This phenomenon has long been recognised.
The study suggests that safety-minded, lead-pipe-removal programs at water utilities across the country actually may be increasing the risk of lead exposure for water customers.
UKWIR release Managing Leakage 2011
October saw the release of Managing Leakage 2011, [10/WM/08/42 Managing Leakage 2011 (1 84057 563 8)] a comprehensive update of the groundbreaking Managing Leakage series of reports issued by the water industry in 1994. The original publication became the manual of best practice in the UK and internationally and was instrumental in helping water companies to reduce their leakage. Managing Leakage 2011, has drawn on results from UKWIR's leakage programme which began in 1994 and comprises some thirty projects.. The release comes in the form of a short printed summary
accompanied by a CD holding the text of seven individual reports. The CD is fully linked to help guide users interested in a particular leakage issue, through the reports with the ability to check all the referenced documents.
Ultrasonic cleaning technology
A team of scientists from the University of Southampton have been awarded the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2011 for their development of a revolutionary ultrasonic attachment for taps
which generates both bubbles and ultrasound and massively enhances the ability of water to clean.
The device works with cold water, minimal additives and consumes as much electrical power as a light bulb. Licenses have already been sold to a number of industries to look at cleaning in food preparation, hospitals, manufacturing and the home. The new technology consumes less water and power than the established competitor technologies. ( Potential for biofilm removal? Mike Waite
Ofwat unveils new price limits consultation
On November 23 2011 Ofwat published a consultation document
on how it intends to set limits on the prices water and sewerage companies can charge customers in the future.
Spatial variation of waterborne Escherichia coli – implications for routine water quality monitoring
Work carried out in North Wales
has shown that the side of the river that routine water monitoring samples are taken from can make a significant difference to the classification of microbial water quality. This has important implications for sampling strategies and the use of microbial source tracking (MST) techniques.
Caffeine as an indicator of human contamination of surface waters
is commonly used to evaluate the levels of faecal pollution of surface water but non-human sources can contribute significantly to the levels that are observed
The presence of caffeine is a sure indicator of human sewage contamination, as agriculture and industry do not tend to release caffeine into the environment.
A Canadian study
looking at storm water discharges has determined that there is a strong correlation between the levels of caffeine in water and the level of bacteria, and that caffeine levels can be used as an indicator of pollution due to sewerage systems.
Scottish Water extends network using gas mains
Scottish Water has utilised an abandoned gas mains as a 'sleeve' for a new water mains extension and the work, which is almost complete, has been successful on all counts
. It has not only increased supply, it has improved efficiency by reducing leakage, it has saved money, disruption and is a more environmentally sound alternative to traditional installation methods.
Lower threshold for switching water supplier.
More businesses across England will be able to choose their water supplier in search of a better deal under changes to be introduced shortly by the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon. Currently only businesses who use more than fifty megalitres of water a year can switch from their existing water supplier to a new one.
Government proposals to slash this threshold to just five megalitres of water will substantially increase those able to switch supply, from just 2,200 to 26,000 businesses. The change, which is subject to Parliamentary approval, is an amendment to the Water Industry Act 1991. It is hoped the change will be enacted by the end of the year.
Water filtration for excavations
A new system to ensure wastewater from maintenance excavation is as clean as possible before being discharged has been introduced by Electricity distributor UK Power Networks.
The system, introduced on September 9, comprises a filter bag fitted to the end of pump hoses to collect sediment and up to 2.5l of oil from water removed from excavations. Once attached, the bag is simply placed on the grass verge or roadway so the filtered water can flow out the bottom of the bag and soak or drain away. The high-visibility bags can be reused several times, says the company, as an indicator strip along the side shows if it is still viable. And the waste collected can be disposed of in general waste containers, providing it is not heavily contaminated.
Adverse effects of disinfection by-products
University of Illinois scientists report
the first identification of a cellular mechanism linked to the toxicity of mono-haloacetic acids, which occur as DBPs. This study, published in Environmental Science & Technology
, suggests a possible connection to adverse health effects, including neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.
OFWAT summary of Water Company performance 2010-29011
Ofwat has published its summary of performance of Water Companies in England and Wales for 2010-2011
. Main conclusions are that:
- Complaints have fallen by 20 percent in the last two years, and overall customer satisfaction with the way companies deal with contacts and concerns is high.
- Drinking water quality remains up there with the best in Europe.
- The number of incidents of properties suffering internal sewer flooding was lower than any of the previous four years.
- All companies are making sure they have appropriate water supplies to meet their customers' needs.
There are still some areas of concern. For example:
- six companies failed their leakage targets
- seven companies need to do more to maintain their underground infrastructure to a satisfactory standard
- there was a high number of supply interruptions to customers.
Ofwat launches regulatory compliance consultation
Ofwat has published a consultation document
, outlining proposed changes in the way it approaches regulatory compliance, shifting responsibility and accountability towards water and sewerage companies (WaSCs). Under the proposed changes water and sewerage companies will be responsible for implementing their own systems and processes.
Effect of intermittent addition of polyelectrolyte on filtered water quality.
Results of experiments carried out in Turkey on the effects of intermittent polyelectrolyte addition on the quality of effluent water and on the development of filter headloss have been published
. Anionic and cationic polyelectrolytes were applied to two similarly constructed pilot sand filters. Intermittent addition of polyelectrolyte produced better effluent quality and reduced the polyelectrolyte consumption by half with much less headloss.
Managnese in drinking water and IQ
A Canadian study
has assessed the relationship between exposure to manganese from drinking water and IQ in school-age children living in communities relying on groundwater. The study showed that lower IQ was significantly associated with higher estimated manganese intake from water consumption but not from food. As manganese occurs commonly in drinking water and the effects seen in this study were at low Mn levels in drinking water, the authors propose that the guidelines for safe manganese in water should be revisited, although the current WHO Guidelines for |Drinking Water Quality consider Manganese to be of no health concern.
Rabbits as a source of cryptosporidium
was first identified as a human pathogen during a waterborne outbreak in Northamptonshire in 2008, and its epidemiology has now been described for sporadic cases in the United Kingdom
. C. cuniculus
from rabbits currently makes up a minor fraction of human cases of illness, In total, 37 (1.2%) of 3,030 infections were caused by C.cuniculus
: 23 in 2007 and 14 in 2008. It has the potential to cause waterborne outbreaks given the right circumstances. C. cuniculus
oocysts would have been detected by currently used techniques, but probably misclassified as C. hominis
. The potential for rabbits to contribute to water contamination must therefore be considered in water quality management strategies.
Is 100% compliance with Drinking Water Quality Standards achievable?
UKWIR has published a report
which questions whether it is possible to achieve 100% compliance with drinking water quality standards, or justifiable to seek to do so. The costs and environmental impact of seeking fractional and incremental improvements may be disproportionate to the benefits, which may have limited health benefits if any.
Norovirus survival in groundwater
American workers have shown
that Norwalk virus in groundwater can remain detectable for over 3 years and can remain infectious for at least 61 days. 13 study subjects were challenged at different time points with groundwater spiked with the prototype human norovirus, Norwalk virus. Norwalk virus spiked in groundwater remained infectious after storage at room temperature in the dark for 61 days (the last time point tested).
Assessing organic pollutant risks in surface waters
A new approach to assessing the risk posed by 500 organic chemicals potentially found in the surface waters of river basins across Europe has been developed and used in a study
. It allows pollutants of concern, including emerging substances, to be identified and prioritised by Member States for monitoring and action as required by the Water Framework Directive.
The study showed that around 74% of the 44 chemicals that were identified as being potentially high and very high risk were pesticides, a result which does not correspond with the EU-wide priority substances currently listed in the WFD. This is potentially alarming, given the strict risk assessments required before pesticides can be approved for market use. The study also reveals that about one third of the 33 priority substances listed in the WFD do not pose a risk in the waters studied in this research.
Phosphate dosing reduces copper in drinking water
Work recently published
has shown that dosing of phosphate to control plumbosolvency also effects significant reduction of copper levels in both drinking water supplies and sewage.
Event detection software
Leak detection and location
A new report and guide for the detection of water pipe leaks has been published by UKWIR - "A SURVEY OF PRACTICES FOR THE DETECTION AND LOCATION OF LEAKS". This new 77 page report
collates the practical experience of 9 UK Water Companies. It provides a software tool to guide the engineer towards the most appropriate method providing a banded score for Equipment / Technique selection.
DWI Annual Report published
The DWI has published its annual report for 2010
which includes regional reports covering six regions of England and additionally Wales which summarise the testing and results of water quality tests, public confidence in drinking water, events and technical audit activity in the region. For the first time it also includes separate reports on Private Supplies for England and Wales publishing details of numbers and types of supplies, a summary of monitoring results and case studies.
Recovering energy from pressure reduction.
Researchers from Bangor University and Trinity College Dublin have identified a way
of using water pressure within the water storage system to generate renewable energy. That energy can then be used by the water industry and sold to the grid. The researchers have been awarded £500,000 in EU funding to investigate and develop small hydropower turbines that could be introduced within existing water treatment systems. These turbines would recover the energy at present dissipated in break-pressure tanks ( no mention is made of recovering energy in relation to PRVs).
Review of Ofwat published
Defra published on 12 July its review of Ofwat
, assessing whether the economic regulator for the water sector is fit for future challenges. The review, led independently by David Gray, was launched by the UK Government and Welsh Government in August 2010 as a ‘health check’ of the existing arrangements ahead of the publication of the UK Government’s Water White Paper later this year and to inform the development of Welsh Government’s future policies on water. The review looked at Ofwat’s role, how it works with others and if its regulatory approach is delivering what the Government and customers expect. The review also considered the arrangements for representing customers in the water sector, currently undertaken by the Consumer Council for Water. The main conclusions are that regulation in the water sector has worked well since privatisation and that major change is not needed to the statutory framework or regulatory landscape; but that to achieve continued success, Ofwat needs to see through the changes it has embarked on to reduce the burden of regulation it imposes on the water industry and work constructively with the other organisations in the sector. The review team also considered existing and alternative approaches for consumer representation and recommended to the UK and Welsh Governments, that the functions the Consumer Council for Water carries out in protecting water customers be retained preferably within CCWater. The Coalition Agreement committed to reform the water industry to ensure more efficient use of water and the protection of poorer households. UK Ministers will respond to the Review’s recommendations in the Water White Paper to be published later this year. Welsh Ministers will decide on how to respond to the recommendations in due course.
Efficacy of chlorine dioxide (ClO2) against seven species of bacterial threat (BT) agents in water
Testing typical ClO2
doses used in water treatment on two strains of Bacillus anthracis
spores, Yersinia pestis
, Francisella tularensis
, Burkholderia pseudomallei
, Burkholderia mallei
species showed these would be effective against all bacteria tested except B. anthracis
spores that would require up to 7 h with the largest allowable dose of 2 mg l-1
. Other water treatment processes may be required in addition to ClO2>
disinfection for effective spore removal or inactivation. More information
Drought in England
Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and western Norfolk remain in drought. Anglian Water and Cambridge Water who provide public water supply in this area have said that there is no threat to the public water supply as they have enough water to get through the summer.
Current status can be obtained
on the Environment Agency website.
WHO publishes 4th edition of “Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality”
WHO formally launched the latest edition of its Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality on 4 July 2011 The Guidelines
are now available for download or book order following their global launch at the Singapore International Water Week on 4 July 2011. These Guidelines are the product of systematic revisions over more than five years of extensive consultation with hundreds of experts. This 4th edition expands on key concepts like health-based targets and water safety planning; presents new risk assessments on microbial, chemical and radiological hazards, and addresses emerging issues of public concern like pharmaceuticals in drinking-water
"Super Sand" for Better Purification of Drinking Water
Details have been published
of a simple method to coat sand grains with nanosheets of graphite oxide to increase filtering capacity five-fold when tested for ability to remove mercury and the dyestuff Rhodamine B.
Potential leakage problems on PE distribution systems
A new report published by UKWIR
quantifies the scale of potential leakage problems on existing PE systems and drives improved design and construction methods for installing PE pipes. Analysis of failure data and destructive electrofusion joint test records suggest that 20 percent of electrofusion joints will have a life span considerably less than the 50 year design life
Additionally the report provides key recommendations, a handy reference of installation techniques, guides, training recommendations and specific interviews with Water Company operators.
World’s first commercial forward osmosis plant to be built in Oman
UK-based company, Modern Water plc, has been awarded a contract to build and operate
the world's first fully commercial forward osmosis plant. It is claimed that the plant, which will be in Oman, will achieve significant cost savings, use less energy and be more reliable than conventional methods, particularly when operating in such challenging conditions.
Tool for drought prediction announced
An Australian researcher has developed a tool that measures several water and climatic variables to assess dryness in an area and then uses past circumstances to predict future drought conditions. It is claimed that the tool is capable of forecasting drought conditions
six months in advance.
World Health Assembly adopts Drinking-water, Sanitation and Health Resolution
On 24 May 2011, the 65th World Health Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 64/24 on Drinking-water, Sanitation and Health, urging Member States, inter alia, to highlight the importance of safe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene as the basis for primary prevention in national public health strategies and to ensure that these strategies contribute to the achievement of the water- and sanitation-related MDG target and to the progressive realization of the human right to water and sanitation. It requests the Director-General, inter alia, to formulate a new, integrated WHO strategy for water, sanitation and health with a focus on water quality and monitoring issues, and to increase technical assistance for enhanced drinking-water quality management.
This was the first time in 20 years that the Assembly adopted a Resolution specifically addressing drinking-water and sanitation.
E coli die rapidly in contact with copper
Work at Southampton University
to be presented by Professor Bill Keevil at a WHO International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control in Geneva on 30 June shows that on a dry copper surface, 10 million E. coli
bacteria are eliminated within 10 minutes and on a wet copper surface, one could expect a total kill within around 45 minutes. This antimicrobial property is inherent to the metal, and shared with alloys such as brass and bronze. ( However biofilms in water pipes may protect E. coli
from this bactericidal action.
Nitrogen-containing disinfection by-products.
DWI has produced a review
of the current toxicological and occurrence information available on Nitrogen-containing Disinfection By-Products. The review finds that there is a significant lack of data but where data are available the risks to health are not a concern,
Significance of methods and sample volumes for E Coli and Total Coliform measurements
DWI has published results
of a jointly funded project with the US Water Research Foundation. The purpose of the research was to provide new information on the relative merits of the various procedures approved by the USEPA and the Drinking Water Inspectorate for the microbiological examination of drinking water. The study has provided data that indicates methods based on detection of activity of the enzymes β-D-galactosidase and β-D-glucuronidase tend to be more specific, sensitive and accurate than the methods based on lactose fermentation.
Guidelines for communicating about drinking water contaminants
DWI has completed a jointly funded project with the Water Research Foundation, and the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide practical advice, tips and validated content in an easy to use manner for deployment by water utilities. Although the project focussed on the requirements of utilities in the USA it contains useful guidance and toolkits
that can be adapted for use by UK water utilities.
Western Australia to trial water recycling
In view of the water shortage affecting Perth and the south west of Australia the Government has asked for a trial involving the pumping of fully treated reclaimed water into the Gnangara aquifer to be fast tracked. If successful, planned expansion of a current desalination plant could be put off indefinitely. More information
Intellectual Impairment in School-Age Children Exposed to Manganese from Drinking Water
is reported assessing the relations between exposure to manganese from drinking water and children’s intelligence quotient (IQ). The study also examined the relations between manganese exposures from water consumption and from the diet with children’s hair manganese concentration.
The authors conclude that the findings of the cross-sectional study suggest that exposure to manganese at levels common in groundwater is associated with intellectual impairment in children.
Validation of Alternative Methods for the Analysis of Drinking Water and Their Application to Escherichia coli Abstract
Investigations into the latest techniques to meet new lead standard
In December 2013, the regulatory standard for lead compliance will be reduced from 25μg/l to the World Health Organization standard of 10 µg/l. Although water utilities currently implement a range of policies to deal with lead (including phosphate dosing, active and reactive lead pipe replacement, and active renovation (lining) of lead pipes), further action may be required to avoid non-compliance.
WRc’s Portfolio collaborative research project, "Technology Based Solutions for Lead (CP428)", will identify the full range of techniques and applications available for dealing with lead, and identify where various techniques will be most cost-effective. The project will undertake a technical review of available techniques to understand how practical they are to implement, in service performance and life expectancy. The economic argument between (reducing) dosing phosphate and replacement or renovation will then be explored using Whole Life Cost Analysis.
Further details are available from Claire Prescott firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone +44 (0) 1793 865085 or Andy Russell at email@example.com
or +44 (0) 1793 865130
Ion mobility spectroscopy as a potential tool for on-line monitoring of water and wastewater
WRc has started a new Collaborative Portfolio project, "Evaluation of Ion Mobility Spectroscopy (CP429)", where the objective is to assess the suitability of this technology to water industry applications.
Further details are available from Jörgen Jönsson firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone +44 (0) 1793 865101
Organic compounds migrating from plastic pipes into water
Polish workers report the presence of a range of organo-metallic and volatile organic compounds in water in contact with PVC and PE pipes
available in Poland.
New WHO Guidance Document on Safe Drinking-water from Desalination
Advances in water treatment technologies have rendered desalination to be an increasingly viable alternative source of drinking-water in many regions facing water scarcity. A new WHO guidance document
has been published for Member States to safely manage a drinking-water supply based on desalination processes. It focuses on the key chemical and microbial risks associated with the process, in the context of the WHO Water Safety Plan framework.
Global Safe Water and Sanitation Needs
A series of four articles published in PLoS Medicine on 9
and 16 November 2010
has highlighted the urgent need for safe and adequate water supplies and sanitation for improving global health. Although tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids are widely perceived as the major international health problems, diarrhoeal illness kills more children each year than these three diseases combined. Even if the WHO Millennium Development Goal is achieved by 2015, on tenth of the world’s population will still rely on water from distant or unprotected sources and one quarter will have no access to even a latrine., An agenda for action is proposed.
Israel to set standard for Magnesium in desalinated water
The WHO has concluded that more evidence is required before a decision can be made on issuing Guidelines on minimum calcium or magnesium concentrations in drinking water
. It considers that for desalinated water stabilization practices should ensure that the overall process does not significantly reduce total intake of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and fluoride. Based on local circumstances, public health authorities may wish to set a requirement to further modify final drinking-water composition in light of overall mineral nutrition.. An article in HealthStream
reports that Israel has decided to require the addition of 20-30 mg/l of magnesium to desalinated supplies.
Pitting Corrosion of Copper in High-pH and Low-Alkalinity Waters
The USEPA has reported on a study
systematically investigating the effect of water chemistry (pH, sulfate, and alkalinity or inorganic carbon, and orthophosphate) on the nature of copper corrosion, both localized and uniform.
Water quality results show that pitting can be initiated without silica, aluminum, organic carbon, or other water quality variables—variables that have been suggested to be important in pitting or frequently associated with copper plumbing that has failed from pitting corrosion.
Use of Bacteroides phages to detect human contamination of spring waters
Workers in Switzerland have selected different strains of Bacteroides which are specifically susceptible to bacteriophages
present in human or animal faeces. This enables detection of human faecal contamination of springs. However, the practical application of this finding is limited because some specific host strains were restricted to certain geographic regions.
Emergency Water Supply after Disasters
A portable gravity-driven microfiltration unit which produces drinkable water in an emergency has been developed at the University of Kassel, Germany. An article in Water Science & Technology: Water Supply
describes how the unit can provide water for 200–500 people for a period of over many months without any maintenance.
Novel process for pipe cleaning
United Utilities is trialling a pioneering technique developed by Bristol University for cleaning mains by passing a mixture of slushy ice
through the pipes. The mixture picks up sediment such as iron and manganese inside the pipes and is expelled into a tanker for safe disposal. The technique is being trialled by United Utilities in a £1.6 million mains cleaning scheme, having already been trialled by Wessex Water
DEFRA consultation on water affordability.
Defra has published its consultation on measures to assist households who face water affordability pressures and households in areas with particularly high water bills, such as the South West. The consultation, which is open until 17 June 2011, follows publication of the independent review of charging for household water and sewerage services and the pledge made in the Budget to consult on proposals to address water affordability. More Information
Water supply implications of pandemic flu.
reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives designed to assess the ecotoxicologic risks of a pandemic influenza medical response concludes that existing plans for antiviral and antibiotic use during a severe influenza pandemic could reduce wastewater treatment efficiency prior to discharge into receiving rivers, resulting in water quality deterioration at drinking water abstraction points.
WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for
Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP)
The report of the first meeting of the WHO/UNICEF Task Force on Monitoring Drinking-water Quality
held in November 2010 has now been published. Although looking at a global perspective there is much in the report of relevance to developed countries such as the UK.
Multiple Barrier Approach in drinking water risk assessment
A paper in press
has the following abstract: A number of existing risk assessment tools make reference to, or incorporate, a Multiple Barrier Approach to drinking water safety. Three waterborne disease outbreaks that occurred in developed nations were used as case studies to test a selected set of risk assessment tools. The outbreaks were used to determine how well the risk assessment tools identify hazards and vulnerabilities associated with different barriers to drinking water contamination.
Electrochemical Multiwalled Carbon Nanotube Filter for Viral and Bacterial Removal and Inactivation
Workers at Yale University have developed a highly effective process for removal of bacteria and viruses
. Using carbon nanotubes in a small bench-scale apparatus they were able to completely remove 107 E.coli
and reduce 106
MS2 bacteriophage by c 4 log. With concomitant low voltage electrolysis 100% removal of the viruses was achieved.
Water Hardness and Cardiovascular Disease
Results of research into the impact of step changes in water hardness in parts of England and Wales over the period 1981 to 2008 on cardiovascular mortality
have recently been published. No evidence of an association between step changes in drinking water hardness or drinking water calcium and cardiovascular mortality was found. The researchers concluded that much larger studies (>500,000 people) would be needed to detect changes of the size indicated by other studies.
Drinking water incidents due to chemical contamination in England and Wales, 2006–2008
A recent paper from the Chemicals Hazards and Poisons Division (CHaPD)
of the Health Protection Agency refers to 82 incidents of chemical contamination of water supplies in 2006 to 2008, with data available for 70 of these. 28 incidents related to private supplies and 22 were due to contamination close to the point of consumption. The remaining 20 incidents related to public water supplies.
Water Safety in Buildings
The WHO has just published a document giving guidance on Water Safety in Buildings
The document is directed primarily to those who design, construct, manage, operate, maintain and regulate building water systems. It is intended to be a useful resource for the development of training and information material. The document is based on the WHO Water Safety Plan framework and as such it will be of interest to the water industry.
Do Free-Living Amoebae in Treated Drinking Water Systems Present an Emerging Health Risk?
A literature review by Thomas and Ashbolt
provides evidence that free-living amoebae can be shown passing through treatment with subsequent multiplication and can consistently be detected in treated drinking water systems around the world. While amoebae consume bacteria, some micro-organisms such as Legionellae spp and Mycobacterium spp are known to be amoeba-resistant. Legionellae spp have been shown able to multiply within some species of amoebae. Work is needed to determine whether amoebae and amoeba-resistant bacteria together in drinking water systems have any impact on human health.
Lack of safe drinking water and sanitation in France.
At least 2 million people in France do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation according to a report published by the French Water Academy
. and quoted by EMWIS
. The Report, in French, says that drinking water is good in cities but does not meet quality standards in 10% of villages, public sanitation is being improved but sanitation in rural areas is inadequate in almost 50% of cases and about 2.4% of rural households discharge their sewage without treatment