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CP505  Benefitting from Microbial Source Tracking Risk Assessment
Project Appreciation and Objectives

Water and wastewater companies currently make significant operational decisions on the basis of microbiological indicators, such as coliforms, whose presence indicates a problem but imparts little other information of real value. Microbial source tracking (MST) is a new approach that offers water companies considerably more insight. Application of these techniques could trace sources of faecal contamination associated with cross connections to storm water drains, identify sources of contamination in recreational waters or water used to produce drinking water, and more reliably determine the cause of bacteriological failures in treatment and distribution. The UK has some experience of MST, but its application has been limited to assessing bathing water quality.

However, application of MST is not straight forward; success depends on using the most appropriate technique (to discriminate between different types of animals, the origin of the faecal material), the right method for conducting the laboratory examination and interpreting the data, and a properly implemented monitoring programme. Such complexity is hampering adoption of MST as it makes it difficult for water companies to compare different approaches and select the one that would be best for a particular application.

The objective for this project is to provide companies with the ability to select the most suitable MST techniques and to achieve its potential benefits through a selected series of case studies.

Business Benefits to Clients

  • Operational decisions based on true understanding of the nature of microbial challenges; more effective targeting of interventions and more cost- efficient and compliant operation.
  • Reduced failures through informed and better targeted interventions.
  • Demonstration of due diligence to regulators, interested bodies, and the public alike regarding good environmental stewardship and public health protection.

Work Programme

Phase 1

  1. Critically review the currently available techniques by systematic analysis and assessment of published studies and from on-going or recently completed MST studies in the UK.
  2. Develop guidance and for companies and report on effective ways of applying MST.
  3. Identify suitable case studies, select laboratory with appropriate capability for conducting the analytical side and develop logistics.

Phase 2

  1. Practical demonstration linked to case studies identified in consultation with the liaison group.

Project Output and Implementation

  • Guidance to enable water companies to apply MST.
  • Support through a workshop to assist water companies to implement MST and share experiences (updated every six months to support on-going implementation).
  • Phase 2 - Report documenting the literature review and describing the case-study evaluations.

Related WRc Work

  • Management and practical role in the EU Aquavalens project evaluating new microbiological techniques for pathogen detection in water and food.
  • Partner in the STREAM Project - Next Generation Gene sequencing for the water industry.
  • CP353 New Microbiological Techniques - Assessing the benefits for safeguarding water quality (2009).

WRc's Portfolio Programme
Summary of the £1.5 million per annum research programme

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