Due to improved detection techniques, we are aware of a large number of chemicals that may be present in our waters. In addition, chemical use is increasing. It seems no longer possible to assess the removal of all organic micropollutants in in relation to drinking water production and wastewater treatment plants individually.
A combination of substance-based monitoring with so-called ‘effect-based monitoring tools’ (also known as bioassays, or bioanalytical tools) can provide a better view on the presence of (mixtures of) potentially toxic micropollutants.
The Global Water Research Coalition (GWRC) initiated this project to demonstrate effect-based monitoring tools can be applied in practical settings. The project aims to develop user guidance documents for operators and/or local authorities, collect experiences with the use of effect-based monitoring tools from a selection of case studies, and provide documentation on effect-based monitoring in water safety planning to policy-makers. Overall, the project’s goal is a more efficient implementation of bioanalytical tools in the Water Safety Plans (WSPs) across the global water sector.
Due to the large number of organic micropollutants in the environment, it is no longer possible to evaluate the removal of all individual organic micropollutants. Removal rates are important in drinking water production and wastewater treatment plants. Next, assessment is needed to evaluate which mixtures of micropollutants may have adverse health effects. This cannot be based only on chemical analysis, as this depends on the availability of information on mechanisms of toxicity of the substances present.
Hence, a combination of substance-based monitoring with so-called ‘effect-based monitoring tools’ provides additional information. This approach can be applied from resource to tap and through the whole water sector (including sewage treatment plants, conventional and alternative water treatment schemes and water reuse schemes.
Regulations and water safety planning
There are strong incentives from governments and institutions such as WHO and the EU to review Water Quality Management Frameworks in various policy areas, and to embed WHO Water Safety Plans. In this project, effect-based monitoring tools are applied in case studies in addition to current water monitoring. In this way, smart combinations of chemical and biological analyses lead to reduced uncertainty in safety assessments.
GWRC water experts will discuss the implementation of integrative and cost-effective monitoring programs to detect emerging water quality issues that are not adequately covered by existing guidelines and regulations to ensure drinking water consumer’s exposure safety.
Effect-based monitoring in water safety planning can be applied to different parts of the water sector: from source to tap, but also for example in wastewater treatment plants, and in water reuse schemes. By promoting the interaction of operators and policy-makers from all over the world, this project also aims to increase knowledge and stimulate the exchange of experiences.
This project aims to demonstrate an innovative water quality and safety assessment framework in a practical setting, and to support water experts in the implementation of effect-based monitoring in integrative and cost-effective monitoring programmes to detect emerging water quality issues. User guidance will be provided to operators and/or local authorities on the selection of bioassays, the interpretation of bioassay data, the establishment of decision-making support for the operating practices on the upgrading/improvement of the supply chain. Furthermore, a selection of case studies will be used to demonstrate the implementation of a combination of tools to assess the effectiveness of treatment stages, and the use of effect-based monitoring in Water Safety Plans. Ultimately, this leads towards a more efficient implementation of bioanalytical tools in the Water Safety Plans across the global water sector.