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

WA4 'Risk Assessment and Risk Management'


Traditionally, the major parts of a water supply system, i.e. the source water system, the treatment system, and the distribution network, are studied separately. The main objective of WA4 is to integrate risk assessments of the separate parts into a comprehensive decision support framework for cost-efficient risk management in safe and sustainable drinking water supply. The complex situation of a large number of various types of risks, e.g. to the source waters, needs to be managed together with the predominantly technical and managerial risks in the treatment and distribution and plumbing systems.


Water production systems are exposed to a number of risks, i.e. hazards and hazardous events, that may cause bad drinking water quality. Microbiological contaminations due to e.g. source water contamination, insufficient treatment, backflow and ingress result in a number of annual outbreaks of illness in Europe and other countries. Chemical contaminations in many cases are diffuse, originating from runoffs of roads, farmlands and urban areas, but also accidental spills from transport and industrial activities will contribute to this risk as well. Effects of anticipated global climate change are assumed to impact source water quality due to temperature changes and increased variability in flow patterns in surface water streams. External hazards to source water quality may in turn lead to consequences in treatment and distribution of drinking water. The risks to technical systems and consumers depend on the barrier functions in source water, treatment and distribution stages. There are also internal hazards in the treatment and distribution stages that result in security risks to both the technical systems and public health, e.g. sabotage, terrorist actions and function failures in treatment facilities and distribution networks. Furthermore, these risks in the drinking water production are potential threats to the consumers7; health and also, in case of extensive outbreaks, result in substantial economical losses to the society.


For efficient management of risk, and to avoid sub-optimisation of measures, a holistic view of the water supply system is needed, since hazards in one part of the system may lead to consequences in another part. The premise is made that in cost-efficient and sustainable risk management, in line with the intentions of the European Water Framework Directive, the risk management should include open economic valuation of potential risk reductions in order to provide cost-efficient risk reduction measures. Providing a framework for integrated risk management will facilitate prioritisation and efficiency in optimisation processes in water companies, through different stages of their development.



The work in WA4 will be based on the widely accepted framework for risk management. The risk management process includes the entire process from the initial description of the scope and purpose of risk management, the identification of hazards, and the estimation of risks, through the evaluation of risk acceptance and identification of potential risk reduction options, to the selection, implementation and monitoring of appropriate reduction measures. Risk management is an iterative process of continuous updating as new information becomes available and as the preconditions change. Successful risk management also requires careful communication of risks between the various stakeholders of the process.


The Risk Management Process (IEC, 1996) and main categories of stakeholders (after Thedéen, 1998)


The TECHNEAU decision support framework will be based on the Water Safety Plan system, as described in the third edition of the Drinking Water Quality Guidelines of the WHO, and fully in concordance with the Bonn Charter. This risk management framework, which is an important integrator within TECHNEAU, offers an excellent basis for further development from drinking water safety to water quantity and other stakeholder values, without loss of applicability to water companies in early stages of their development. It, however, also offers an opportunity to further specify and develop parts of this system, both in depth as well as into an integrated decision support framework. The development of the decision support framework for integrated risk management will be made in two major steps. Initially, the number of stakeholder values will be limited to water safety and water availability, including security of water supply. Limitation of stakeholder values will be necessary for application in water companies that are small and not far developed. Further stakeholder values will be included in the second step, e.g. negative environmental effects of water supply (groundwater abstraction, environmental pollution etc.), making the framework feasible for more developed water companies.