Water Treatment and Distribution

Overview of Program

The Water Treatment and Distribution Research team, under the leadership of Mary Drikas, develops and undertakes research in water treatment processes and distribution system management for both drinking and reuse applications, providing innovative water quality solutions that enhance knowledge and improve treatment efficiency and water quality at the customer tap.

Capabilities and expertise

  • Determination of required coagulant and coagulant aid doses for treatment of drinking water and wastewater sources by sedimentation or dissolved air flotation-filtration.
  • Optimisation of coagulant dosage and sequence for idealised floc structure and improved filtration performance.
  • Natural organic matter (NOM) characterisation in water sources using a range of techniques to understand the origins of NOM in source water, predict the applicability of coagulation to remove organics (DOC) and estimate the required chlorine demand.
  • Determination of chlorine and chloramine disinfectant demand, decay curves and simulated distribution system (SDS) testing.
  • Assessment of ozone demand and decay curves using laboratory scale batch and semi-batch contact experiments.
  • Evaluation of the impact of treatment processes and disinfectants on disinfection by-products (DBPs) and DBP formation potential measurements.
  • Evaluation of treatment processes and products (such as activated carbon) on removal of algal cells and their metabolites.
  • Assessment and optimisation of performance of powdered or granular activated carbons for specific water treatment issues or contaminant removal.
  • Evaluation and troubleshooting of existing treatment plant processes on water treatment issues, such as chemical dosing points, filter optimisation and dealing with sudden water quality changes and seasonal variation.
  • Expert scientific evaluation of requirements for new or retro-fitted drinking water treatment plants including pilot-scale investigations, targeted monitoring schemes and effective disinfection strategies to meet health and aesthetic requirements.

Specialist Analyses

  • Rapid NOM Fractionation to identify dissolved hydrophobic and hydrophilic content
  • High performance size-exclusion chromatography (HPSEC) for evaluation of the molecular weight distribution of dissolved organic carbon in water
  • Fluorescence spectroscopy for NOM source tracking and recycled water cross-connection detection. May also be combined with HPSEC for detailed characterisation.
  • Photometric Dispersion Analysis (PDA) for evaluation of coagulation floc characteristics, including growth and settling rates and resistance to breakage.
  • Filterability index for assessment of coagulation conditions on customisable single and mixed media rapid filtration performance (including sand, anthracite, GAC, etc.)
  • Laser particle counting (aqueous) for size/volume distribution of low turbidity, or diluted higher turbidity waters.
  • Biodegradable Dissolved Organic Carbon (BDOC) measures the amount of organic matter that is biodegraded by biologically active sand and is a surrogate for pipe wall (immobilised) biofilm effects.

Past and current projects

  • Evaluation of treatment systems for removal of natural organic matter from drinking water, from conventional coagulation through to tight membrane filtration
  • Impact of treatment processes on disinfection by-products (DBP) formation in River Murray treated water
  • WTP optimisation using advanced UV/Vis-based coagulation control packages
  • Cryptosporidium surrogates for validation of granular media filtration performance
  • Development of evidence-based approaches to monitor and manage chlorine & chloramine residuals
  • Optimising filter operation to maximise chloramine stability and minimise NDMA formation
  • Occurrence and management of NDMA and other nitrogenous disinfection by-products in Australian drinking and recycled waters
  • Characterisation of THM formation for water quality management
  • Biological filtration for the removal of cyanobacterial metabolites
  • Optimizing conventional treatment for removal of cyanobacteria and their metabolites
  • Developing integrated models for the removal of tastes and toxins through our major water treatment plants
  • Assessing the biofouling role of microbes in the desalination system; from the intake pipe to the reverse osmosis membranes
  • Assessing the distribution system impacts of blended desalinated and surface water, including chlorine decay and DBP formation
  • Optimal water quality for minimisation of distribution system problems
  • Developing control measures to reduce NDMA release from rubber seals in existing and new pipelines
  • Assessment of leaching of chemicals from glass reinforced pipelines
  • Tools for understanding and reducing risk of particle deposition in distribution systems