Reducing the amount of disinfectant we use to clean drinking water could improve water quality and make water systems more sustainable, according to researchers at the University of Sheffield.
Disinfectant residuals are used to protect drinking water from the growth of free-living microorganisms and until recently the impact that these disinfectants have on the water supply was not known.
The Sheffield engineers have found that using lower chlorine residual that still provides protection can have less of an impact on the long-term quality of the water and can therefore improve water sustainability.
Dr Katherine Fish, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘We all depend on safe, clean drinking water for our health and well-being.
‘We turn on our taps and rarely think about the journey our water has been on to reach us. It takes energy and chemicals to treat the water that then travels through vast pipelines of our drinking water distribution system.
‘In the UK, we have some of the best drinking water quality in the world, but we also have an ageing drinking water distribution system that is having new pressures put on it with increasing population, urbanisation and the climate crisis. Sustainably managing our drinking water system is critical for all of us, consumers and suppliers.’
Professor Joby Boxall added: ‘Disinfectant residuals are an incredibly important part of how we protect and maintain our drinking water supply. They protect our water from microorganisms and ensure that the UK has access to safe and clean drinking water.
‘Along with using disinfectant residuals, we also need to manage biofilms to maintain our drinking water supply and there’s currently different approaches to managing them effectively. What we’ve found here at Sheffield is that using a slightly lower amount of disinfectant residuals can result in biofilms that have less of a negative impact on water quality.
‘We hope that our findings can be fed into how water supplies are managed in the UK and around the world so that they can become more sustainable through less use of energy and chemicals and help the water industry in its efforts to tackle climate change.’
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