DNA fingerprinting in surface- and wastewater management

Anthony Verschoor PhD MSc

  • Start date
    01 Mar 2017
  • End date
    30 Jun 2018
  • collaborating partners
    BaseClear, Gemeente Utrecht, Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier, Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland, Hoogheemraadschap Stichtse Rijnlanden, KWR, TAUW, Wetterskip Fryslan, Waterschap Hunze & Aa’s, Waterschap Rivierenland, Waterschap Vallei & Veluwe

Situations arise in surface- and wastewater management in which it is important to be able to determine the origin of the water and of the potentially problematic substances/organisms it might contain. Examples would include the detection of faecal contamination at recreational water locations, nutrient-related questions or malfunctioning WWTPs. This research involves a deeper examination of the extent of the possible contribution of advanced DNA techniques in clarifying such questions.


The utility of Next Generation Sequence (NGS) techniques has been demonstrated in a number of fields. Similarly, there are issues in surface- and wastewater management that could be clarified through the use of NGS techniques targeted at the bacterial composition of water (streams). The aim of this project is to show that such techniques add value by providing answers to concrete questions raised in the water sector.


The project’s challenges relate primarily to seeking the boundaries for the techniques’ implementation. In this regard, we foresee tackling questions related to various water types:

  1. Is effluent discharge into surface water traceable? And, if so, how far from the source?
  2. Is the influence of sewer overflow into surface water, and are the different origins of the overflow, traceable?
  3. Is leakage of WWTP water into groundwater traceable? And up to what distance?
  4. Is the origin of surface water that flows into other surface water (e.g., polder water into basin water) traceable? Can one distinguish the origins of comparable sources (human)?


The intended result is two-fold:

  1. Demonstrate that NGS is a strong technique for the solution of water-management related issues and
  2. Solve complex questions in surface- and wastewater management in which the origin of the water is an important factor.