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Canadian researchers develop novel method for drinking water safety

A new technique has been devised to assess the quality of drinking water, assessing how o dilute down contamination.

Water fountain producing drinking water. Image by Juhanson (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Water fountain producing drinking water. Image by Juhanson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Assessing drinking water for safety is one of the important functions of utility companies, overseen by governmental standards. Depending on the country, as well as the time of year, the quality of drinking water can be variable. Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred.

Seeking an improved and novel test method, scientists working at UBCO’s School of Engineering have developed a new method for testing drinking water (or potable water).

The focus of the study is with the quality of drinking water in Canada, based on the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, which have evolved  by input from provinces, territories and several federal departments.

The researchers have come up with a water impurity testing method which considers all possible contaminants simultaneously while testing the water’s quality. The new procedure is therefore faster and provides a greater economy of scale, as well as providing results together so that quality can be better judged.

By contamination, this is a broad term consisting of any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water which is unwanted and which has the potential to cause harm to human health.

The method enables scientists to compare water samples with hundreds of baselines, to provide a ‘living’ picture of water quality and hence provide assurances in relation to public health.

The assessment tool that considers many factors and evaluates the contribution of deteriorating drinking water quality on national and global water footprints.  As an example, the method can provide an assessment of the important variables for the contaminants of concern caused by flooding and chemical spills.

Furthermore, the method can help to track responses to such emergencies to see if different mitigations are leading to improved data collection throughout water distribution systems. This is undertaken by using a greywater footprint to calculate the amount of water required to effectively dissipate pollutants within a system.

It is hoped that water stakeholders can use the framework when considering any contaminants to drinking water quality by utilizing the novel water footprint scale and developing a trade-off between water quality and quantity management.

The new method has been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The research is headed “Drinking water quality assessment in distribution networks: A water footprint approach.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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