Monitoring and managing microbes in water treatment and distribution systems

We develop new ways to monitor and reduce problems caused by microbes in water treatment and distribution systems.

The Challenge

Microorganisms in water treatment and distribution systems

Microbial growth in water treatment and distribution systems is a major concern for consumers and water utilities. Microorganisms contribute to a number of water-related problems, such as:

  • biofouling of water production bores and membranes
  • bioclogging of aquifers during managed aquifer recharge
  • biocorrosion of infrastructure
  • discoloured water events
  • pathogen outbreaks.

These issues are a significant financial cost to the utilities due to increased maintenance and cleaning requirements, and they pose potential risks to human health.

Our Response

New ways to monitor and reduce microbial problems

We're working with with water utilities and universities to increase the fundamental understanding of problems caused by microorganisms in water treatment and distribution systems. Our work examines a range of systems including aquifers, water production bores, water treatment unit operations and water distribution networks.

We monitor industry and water utility infrastructure at a number of field sites around Australia.

We also develop new tools and techniques which can be used to rapidly monitor and mitigate microbially induced problems.

Our recent research has examined:

  • Membrane processes for water purification
  • Efficiency of UV disinfection
  • Microbiology of aquifers during managed aquifer recharge with treated wastewater
  • Microbiology of stormwater distribution networks
  • Decay of disinfectants in water distribution systems
  • Discoloured water events in drinking water distribution systems
  • Ecology of pathogenic Naegleria fowleri in drinking water distribution systems
  • Methods for rapid detection of Naegleria fowleri
  • Effects of pipe materials on biofilm formation
  • Biocorrosion of water pipes
  • Biofilm sensors for monitoring biofouling and optimising disinfectant dosing.

The Results

Improved water treatment and quality

Our research, tools and techniques help to optimise water treatment operations. With better monitoring of water treatment and distribution systems, utility operators are better able to respond to problems caused by microorganisms. This ensures high water quality, reduces costs and decreases potential health risks.

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