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Wat-Qual: two-year successful knowledge exchange on water quality during distribution

Distribution experts from Europe and the US look behind each other’s scenes

Over the last two years, experts and researchers from Europe and the US have had the opportunity to look behind each other’s scenes, and share knowledge about factors impacting water quality in the drinking water distribution system (DWDS), such as chlorination, flushing, temperature, and maintenance and repair activities on the network. The initiative has contributed to a whole series of research projects and has been a particularly valuable experience for the young researchers. The EU contributed to the Wat-Qual project with grants covering travel, accommodation and training costs.

Over the last two years within the Wat-Qual project, researchers from 18 partner organisations – universities and water utilities in 14 EU countries and the US – have shared knowledge and experience regarding drinking water distribution, with a particular focus on ways of guaranteeing water quality. Think, for instance, of network flushing, the use or not of chlorine, and ensuring water quality following repair work on the drinking water system. It was striking that problems with discoloured water are an issue in all of the countries involved, even though it is not often discussed at expert conferences.

Chlorine, temperature and network condition

The objective of the secondments was to work together on the development of new techniques and practical applications. All the participating countries have their own practices, experiences and problems when it comes to the impact of chlorination, temperature and maintenance and repair activities on DWDS water quality. It was particularly valuable for the young researchers to come into contact with senior researchers and experts from the water sector. By taking a look behind the each other’s scenes, and sharing knowledge and experience, the researchers were able, in a scientifically responsible manner, to jointly determine best practices, guidelines and tools. These results are being disseminated through seminars, presentations and a best-practice report is being prepared.

Results for the Netherlands

Researchers from Italy, the Czech Republic and Serbia were seconded to the PWN and Waternet water utilities to share knowledge about flushing methods. This will also possibly result in a joint paper.

Twelve researchers (doctoral candidates and senior) came to KWR from France, the UK (universities of Sheffield and Exeter), Germany, Serbia, Italy and the Czech Republic. This led, among other things, to exploratory research, within the Joint Research Programme of KWR and the water utilities, into resilient pipe networks, and contributed to the development of a contamination forecast tool. During her secondment at KWR, Claudia Quintiliani made such an impression that she has now joined and strengthened the institute’s Distribution team.

Within the framework of the exchange, KWR and PWN experts learned for instance– at the universities of Sheffield, Trondheim and Valencia – how to use a test set-up to study the behaviour of sediment in a pipe, organise the measurement of soil temperature in the surrounding environment of drinking-water and hot-water pipes, and acquire knowledge about digital twins, digital water meters and materials research.

The final joint meeting of Wat-Qual offered participants the chance to discuss the different research results, eventual products and possible future partnerships. In the meantime, the ongoing secondments will continue until the end of the year.

Participants of the final Wat-Qual workshop at KWR on 6 November.