BreakOuts 20 January
Water treatment Pipes Americas Europe

BreakOuts: Addressing the water quality ‘elephant in the room’

Friday, 8 January 2021

This fifth online BreakOuts event will address challenges, developments and innovations in drinking water monitoring and treatment and features utilities from the US and Europe among a panel of experts.

Interactive and international session

Huge amounts of money and time are being invested in reducing leakage in distribution networks worldwide.

In comparison, it's been said that significantly less time and resources are being spent looking at how we can measure and improve water quality. Why?

This will be one question addressed in the latest Aquatech Online BreakOuts, addressing
challenges, developments and innovations in drinking water monitoring and treatment.

Featuring utilities from the US and Europe among a panel of experts, the interactive session will discuss the innovations needed not just in technology, but also regulation and business partnerships.

Speakers include:

  • Katrina Flavell, technical specialist, clean water networks, innovation team, Yorkshire Water
  • Nicole M. Poncelet-Johnson, director of water quality & treatment team, Denver Water
  • Megan Glover, co-Founder & CEO, 120Water
  • John Gaffney, product owner/BDM, water quality analytics, Siemens
  • Michael Strahand, a consultant at IDT, SWAN Forum Ambassador.

Denver’s digital drive on lead service line replacement

Denver Water from the US will be addressing how it is mapping and creating an inventory of homes known to have lead service lines.

This is part of a wider plan from the utility to spend $500 million over 15 years to replace lead lines, estimated to be servicing between 64,000 to 84,000 residences.

Before the replacements, interim measures will be rolled out, including boosting the alkalinity of water to reduce corrosion in lead pipes. Furthermore, free water filter pitches are being provided to affected residents.

“The discussion around the importance of addressing water quality issues from the distribution system to customer taps has never been more pressing.”

Addressing water quality monitoring challenges and innovations

Denver Water also is using the 120Water platform to manage its water sampling program, including a pre-lead service line water testing at about 30,000 taps. 

Together with Megan Glover from 120Water, Nicole M. Poncelet-Johnson from Denver Water will discuss how a centralised digital water platform was created that consists of sample and filter kits, cloud-based software, and services used to manage and execute water programs at scale.

The presentation will be timely. At the end of 2021, the final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) were released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Revisions include testing drinking water at elementary schools and childcare facilities, getting the lead out of the nation’s drinking water, and empowering communities through information.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, Megan Glover, CEO of 120Water, said: “Data shows that water quality issues and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. With the recent passing of the final LCRR in the US, the discussion around the importance of addressing water quality issues from the distribution system to customer taps has never been more pressing. I'm eager to discuss this very important and timely topic with my peers.”

Looking for innovative ways at Yorkshire Water

Dr Katrina Flavell, technical specialist, clean water networks will be discussing key areas of water quality, including bacteriological monitoring, discoloured water and domestic plumbing related issues.

“UK drinking water quality standards are among the highest in the world, and we are proud of the water we supply to our customers.

“However, as customers and regulators rightly demand better and better value for money, we must look for innovative ways to maintain and even improve the quality of the water we provide,” she told Aquatech Online.

One of the key areas will be bacteriological monitoring of drinking water, traditionally undertaken with lab-based culture methods.

“Lab samples are not wholly representative of local water quality, but we are regulated and penalised against these.”

“Can we explore new and better ways of doing this? Lab samples are not wholly representative of local water quality, but we are regulated and penalised against these,” added Flavell.

Greater insight into water quality

Providing water and wastewater services to 5.2 million people, UK utility Yorkshire Water is investigating online flow cytometry, and particle counting at two key water treatment works to find out whether these instruments “could give us greater insight into water quality”.

As well as discussing a partnership with the University of Sheffield addressing flushing impact on discolouration, Flavell will also talk about domestic plumbing related issues – historically not a core responsibility of water utilities.

“This is an incredibly tricky issue for us, as we don’t have control over domestic plumbing, but are called when something goes wrong. For example, phenolics from non-approved plumbing fittings cause taste and odour issues, which can be tricky to track down,” she adds.

“Ultimately, they’re not our responsibility, but we are penalised for the unwanted customer contacts that they bring.”

The technical specialist will address a UKWIR project, sharing case studies that look at improving the detection of taste-and-odour causing compounds.

“These will both highlight why taste and odour in domestic plumbing fittings is such an issue,” she added.

Dangers of putting quantity over quality

Michael Strahand believes while the global focus on leakage reduction driven by economics is well warranted, there is a danger water companies are losing sight of their purpose.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, he said: “There is a lot of interest globally in tackling leakage within networks and customer side leakage. As a result, many countries now have regulatory frameworks in place compelling water companies to tackle leakage. The benefits of tackling leakage are simple to understand: lost water equals lost revenue, and a big leak can lead to interruptions to supply.

“Why is there so little investment in monitoring drinking water quality within distribution networks?”

“However, as an industry, we should never forget that one of our common purposes is to deliver clean and safe potable water to our customers. Although the continuity of supply is important, the quality and therefore, the safety of the water is even more important.

“This raises the question: why is it that, relatively speaking, there is so little investment in monitoring drinking water quality within distribution networks? This webinar will examine the issue from the point of view of water quality sensor producers and drinking water utility end-users.”

A nucleus for a needed step-change

Water company water quality targets are in focus in the UK from regulators and pressure is ramping up. Furthermore, infrastructure that supports the distribution of potable water is aging, with many of the pipes are on average more than 70 years old.

"This brings issues with water quality for consumers that unless understood and managed are not likely to improve for future generations," said John Gaffney.

"To manage this infrastructure better, there needs to be sufficient focus on water quality and its relationship with aging infrastructure."

Gaffney added: "Despite this, still water companies do not have the tools to make a step-change in how they manage water quality. There needs to be a rallying of water service providers around how digitalisation might assist. The BreakOuts webinar serves as a fantastic nucleus from which to begin that process."

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