Development of a substance database

A databank that unlocks information about relevant substances – e.g., substance properties, the presence of known and unknown substances, standards, treatment efficiency – has been developed for water utilities, drinking water laboratories and KWR researchers. The databank makes it possible to efficiently acquire insight into the origin, risks, presence and behaviour of substances in the aquatic environment and in water treatment. The databank is a means of promoting the collaboration and data- and knowledge-sharing between water utilities, drinking water laboratories, regulators and knowledge institutes.

Substance information fragmented

There are more than 100,000 registered chemicals in the European Union. Part of these substances and their degradation products might today, or in the future, end up in the aquatic environment – for instance, because of ineffective wastewater or water treatment, discharges and farmland runoff. This is why information from monitoring, screening, risk assessment and treatment processes is of key importance in setting priorities and taking appropriate measures.

Currently the data about relevant substances of importance to the different stakeholders are stored in a fragmented manner. Because these data are only accessible via separate data silos, the knowledge and measurements cannot easily be requested in bundled form. Collecting and organising the data appropriately is therefore time-consuming and costly. Moreover, the issues of data ownership and business-sensitive information are also relevant. These factors underlie the desire to develop a databank to allow for the sharing and unlocking of information about substances.

Defining a databank’s functionalities

The first step involved the joint inventory and definition of functionalities and requirements for an (initial) basis for the databank. Subsequently, a specific use-case was defined, providing the basis, with a minimal amount of initial data, to determine the databank’s content. This use-case was then related to water treatment. In a software development plan, the assumptions and preconditions were outlined for the databank’s structural development, data sharing, management and financing options. The databank was then developed based on the definition of requirements and the initial design. To begin with, the databank was fed with a limited set of substances, their properties, treatment conditions and measurement data, both prior to and following the treatment process steps.

Demonstration of a proof-of-concept databank

The developed databank will serve as a proof-of-concept which contains a selected set of substance data. The project is to be concluded with a workshop, so that drinking water laboratories and other stakeholders can decide whether to participate in the initiative to further feed and enrich the databank with other, substance-related data.