SW-2 :: Safe and sustainable (drinking) water supply from water source to tap

Prerequisites for the supply of safe drinking water are raw water sources that are of as “clean” and high quality as possible. Groundwater is threatened by pollution and over-extraction, and the threats are increasing as a result of climate change and increasingly intensive human impacts. Increasing concentrations of organic matter in raw water affects treatment processes at water treatment plants as well as the biological processes in the distribution network. We need to increase the protection of raw water sources and the long-term value of water resources need to be addressed in order to raise the awareness in society in general and among planners and politicians specifically. Treatment processes at the plants need to be adapted to changes in raw water quality. There is also a need for long term monitoring of water sources (ground and surface water) with respect to contamination as well as plans for protection and remediation when necessary.
In “A vision for water - Research and innovation agenda for the water sector in Sweden” The Swedish Water & Wastewater Association (2014) addresses challenges and research needs within the water sector. Apart from the elaborated “Swedish challenges”, vision and research and innovation needs the agenda also addresses the need for better coordination and collaboration at various levels within EU, the Nordic countries and Sweden. R & D requirements were identified within the areas of 1) risk analysis and economic assessments 2) effective and safe production of drinking water 3) effective and secure supply of drinking water and 4) safe water in private wells.
Following the conceptual model of INSPIRATION, Specific research topics marked “SH” originate in stakeholder interviews and the workshop and those marked “VW” originate in “A vision for water” (Swedish Water & Wastewater Association, 2014). The research topics raised in the current report do not cover all issues raised in the “A vision for water”. For a full picture we refer to the report, which is in English.).
• How can models be developed to raise the awareness among planners and politicians of the long-term value of water resources?
Natural Capital
• How does natural organic material affect drinking water treatment and how to ensure the efficiency of water treatment plant processes with increased levels of such compounds in raw water? (VW)
• How can methods be developed for the characterization of organic carbon in raw and drinking water? This is expected to lead to new types of online sensors for process-control in the water treatment plant.
Why? One fifth of the 450,000 wells for private water provision are currently regarded as unsuitable for drinking water abstraction. Therefore there is a need for systematic mapping of water quality as a natural resource. Common problems include natural contaminants from bedrock and the penetration of microbiologically contaminated surface waters through well liners and easily permeated soil layers. Additionally, water of poor quality can be more corrosive and therefore cause leaching of harmful substances from material that is in contact with the water. (VW)
• How can we develop robust and reliable measurement methods for the detection of pathogens and/or antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, natural toxins and chemicals in raw water?
Why? These methods would strengthen work to protect raw water sources and should be linked to decision-support systems for water treatment plant operators. Monitoring with the help of model-based methods, software sensors and “sensor data fusion” are also of interest. (VW)
Land Management
• How to provide improved methods for land use planning and management in agricultural and forestry areas, and more effective runoff water management in urban (“soil sealed”) areas? (SH)
• How can different stakeholders’ and other countries’ claims on water resources be balanced using legal, economic and decision-making tools?(VW)
• How to develop of more efficient techniques for remediation of raw water sources affected by chemical accidents, contaminants (such as pharmaceuticals) and organic pollutants?
Why? Increased concentrations of organic matter are known to reduce the effectiveness of chlorine disinfection. They also increase corrosion in the distribution network and furthermore cause clogging of carbon filters so that these do not work as a chemical barrier.
Net Impacts
• How do human activities and behaviour (food production, farming near and “on” water resources, consumption habits) affect the quality/contamination levels in ground and surface water as drinking water resources? (SH)
• How have legislative measures taken (or not) prevented ”new” substances from affecting drinking water or sources for drinking water? (SH)
• How to develop tools and methods to measure the health effects associated with consumption of water and to enable the evaluation of the effects of various actions? (VW)
• How does climate change affect provision of drinking water? (SH)
• How do contaminants (such as PFAS, fertilizers, and pharmaceuticals) affect raw water quality, treatment processes and mixture toxicity and human health?
• How do diffuse sources/sum of contribution from many ”small” contaminant sources affect the quality/contamination levels in ground and surface water (SH)
• Which are the health effects from exposures of several contaminants (mixture/mixture toxicity) (SH)
• How are PFAS-substances, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, unknowns in surface water and groundwater) affecting the cleaning process (SH)
• What materials in contact with water affect water quality and to what extent (SH)
Why? Different types of tools are required as ill-health can be of an acute nature caused by pathogens or of a chronic nature caused by prolonged exposure to chemical substances such as e.g. perflourated hydrocarbons and pesticide residues. (VW)