Alternative Drinking Water Sources

Safeguarding microbial safety in the use of alternative drinking water sources is an important subject of concern for the future. For this reason, drinking water utilities are researching the potential of new sources, such as surface water abstraction or waste- and rainwater reuse. These sources can serve both as supplements to existing central water provisions, as well as for small-scale systems in remote areas.

Water-quality and safety challenges

However, the quality and dynamics of water from these alternative sources differ from those of known sources, such as surface water. This makes the assessment and guarantee of microbial safety more complex. The concentrations of pathogens in these new sources vary both in time (daily pattern, weather influences, seasons) and space (location, discharges, water-treatment effectiveness). In addition, small-scale systems present specific challenges regarding the management and verification of biological safety.

Guaranteeing safety and reliability

The objective of the present project within the Analysis of Microbial Safety of Drinking Water framework (‘AMVD’ in its Dutch abbreviation) is to investigate how the microbial safety in the use of alternative drinking water sources can be determined and managed. Moreover, we want to identify the knowledge gaps that remain in this area. A further objective is to develop a decision-making methodology which drinking water utilities can apply in the use of alternative sources.

Research and development

For the research we will collect and analyse the existing knowledge concerning disease transmission in alternative sources, in order to identify the most important knowledge gaps. This will allow us to make a selection of the most relevant and useable alternative sources for Dutch and Flemish drinking water utilities. We will then measure several microbiological indicators that are important for the AMVD method in these alternative sources. We will also carry out scenario analyses with a view to limiting uncertainties and possible variations.

Towards a new decision-making methodology

With all of the collected knowledge and data we aim to develop a decision-making methodology that the drinking water utilities can use in order to safely make use of alternative sources. The objective is to minimise the uncertainties and possible variations by means of scenario analyses.