An Integrated Project Funded by the European Commission under the Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems Thematic Priority Area.
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Contract Number: 018320
Project Cordinator: Dr. Theo van den Hoven KIWA Water Research
Project Duration: 1st January 2006 to 31st December 2010

WA2 'Technologies for High Quality Water Supply'

RO desalination facility [Source: Aqualying]

Among the steps in water production from catchment to consumer, treatment technologies play a central role. After slow and stepwise evolutions in the basic drinking water treatment technologies used for one and half century, the last two decades brought dramatic changes to the water industry, which led to the concept of multi-barrier treatment able to cope with water resources endangered by urban, agricultural and industrial pollutions. Processes such as ozone/GAC, UV for disinfection and/or trace organic removal, as well as membrane-based processes, have been implemented to cope with microbiological and chemical contaminations of water resources (Cryptosporidium, pesticides etc.).

Even though investments in water quality control linked to the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive should gradually improve the quality of surface water and groundwater resources, versatile, reliable and cost-effective treatment technologies will remain indispensable for the production of safe drinking water. Recently, awareness of the urban water cycle and its implications on water resource management and treatment has increased. Along with water scarcity in some regions, these drivers have led municipalities to recognise the need for saving and/or recycling water. In extreme cases desalination of seawater or brackish water is implemented, driven by technological advances entailing dramatic decreases in production costs to 0.40€/m3. Residuals produced by membrane processes as well as conventional systems have to be treated by specific and cost-effective technologies, to be disposed in a sustainable way.


Beyond these identified problems, changes and threats linked to global warming, urban growth, and new chemicals and industrial products, have to be taken into account by the water supplier, and appropriate treatment technologies have to be selected or developed accordingly. Worldwide the immunocompromised population (AIDS, cancer, and the elderly), especially sensitive to contaminants in their water, is increasing. On the other hand, public awareness of the occurrence of trace pharmaceuticals is also growing, requiring in some instance like in Germany implementation of complementary treatments due to pressure exerted by the consumers. New drinking water regulations will also continue to impact the selection and the use of water treatment processes. In contrast, in rural areas of the world, and especially in developing countries, simple and robust water treatment units are required for improvement of water supplies in the next decade, to increase life expectancy and to allow local development perspectives for rural populations.

Between the vulnerability of the water resource and the status of the distribution system, each component of the multi-barrier system in the water plant has to be reviewed in terms of effectiveness in normal and critical situations, reliability and costs, and upgraded accordingly.

At the European and global scale, decentralised treatment options receive increased attention, but their advantages and potential drawbacks in terms of safe water supply have to be examined. The development of such decentralised system schemes will be facilitated by the on-going technology advances in miniaturization, on-line sensors, and information technologies. It requires however R&D on specific treatment technologies or specific combination of technologies.

The main objective of WA2 is to develop cost-effective technologies and system schemes addressing all theses issues, not only for a safe drinking water supply in Europe, but also for transition and developing countries, as contribution to the objectives of the Environmental Technology Action Plan and Millennium Development Goals.