Genomics is increasingly being used in the water sector to monitor water quality for its safety and health and to determine biodiversity. KWR conducts research into the applicability of DNA techniques for fast and sensitive analyses, and also develops new methods. This research helps the water sector to use hydrogenomics effectively and economically.
Hydrogenomics: growing specialty in the water sector
Molecular microbiology methods (genomics) are increasingly being used in the water sector. Based on the unique composition of the genetic material (DNA or RNA), it is possible to very selectively determine the presence, identity and concentration of (micro) organisms, as well as characterise microbial populations. Compared to traditional methods, DNA techniques makes it possible to analyse pathogens in bathing and surface water faster and more sensitively, and thus track potential sources of pollution more quickly. The techniques are also applied to determine the presense of fish, amphibians and macro fauna populations.
DNA knowledge for the drinking water sector and surface water management
KWR has up-to-date knowledge on the DNA of a variety of (micro) organisms, including the potential threat they pose to health and the environment. Our specialists develop genomic methods and bioinformatics for application in the drinking water sector and surface water management.
- Fast and quantitative detection of microorganisms
Application of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for the fast and selective conduct of routine laboratory analyses and the detection of a large number of (opportunistic) pathogenic microorganisms.
- Description of bacterial populations
Application of next generation sequencing (NGS) to comprehend the composition and biochemical properties of bacterial populations, for example, to optimise treatment processes.
- Tracing new microorganisms and properties
Detection of viruses, bacteria and complex organisms for which ‘traditional’ (culture) methods do not suffice.
- Risk assessment of bathing water
Timely signalling of increased levels of blue-green algae and of bathing water parameters (E. coli, intestinal enterococci), including the tracing of contamination sources and risk assessment for humans and animals. Recognition and quantification of toxins produced by blue-green algae, and recommendations on preventing nuisance.
- Environmental DNA (eDNA)
Analysis of DNA from traces of macro fauna and fish in water (skin cells, mucus, faeces) to determine biodiversity.
Collaboration with knowledge institutes to develop powerful bioinformatic software and create reference collections for data interpretation.
Effective and economical use of hydrogenomics
Hydrogenomics is being widely applied; from the identification of specific pathogens to that of all the organisms present in the water system. KWR’s research focusses on existing and new methods and applications to assists the water sector to use hydrogenomics effectively and economically. The challenge in the years ahead is to develop methods than can be embedded in the legal and regulatory framework.