Improving Drinking Water Quality without Compromising Long-term Safety

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The Idea

Treating water with chlorine is a time-tested way of ensuring biological safety of drinking water. However, excessive chlorination creates chlorination by-products, that are known to cause long-term risk of cancer. We attempted to make a safe compromise.

We integrated EPANET 2.0 (a steady-stage, demand-driven water distribution network model), a particle back-tracking algorithm (can trace the origin of water delivered at any demand point in the network), chlorine and disinfection by product model and a multi-objective optimization algorithm to enable computing the optimal water treatment, minimizing long-term chemical risk (represented as cancer treatment cost.)


Concerns have been raised regarding disinfection by-products (DBPs) formed as a result of the reaction of halogen based disinfectants with DBP precursors. In order to appreciate the chemical and biological tradeoffs, it is imperative to understand the formation trends of DBPs and their spread in the distribution network. However, the water at a point in a complex distribution system is a mixture from various sources, whose proportions are complex to estimate and requires advanced hydraulic analysis. To understand the risks of DBPs and to develop mitigation strategies, it is important to understand the distribution of DBPs in a water network, which requires modelling. The goal of this research was to integrate a steady-state water network model with a particle backtracking algorithm and chlorination as well as DBPs models in order to assess the tradeoffs between biological and chemical risks in the distribution network. A multi-objective optimisation algorithm was used to identify the optimal proportion of water from various sources, dosages of alum, and dosages of chlorine in the treatment plant and in booster locations to control the formation of chlorination DBPs and to achieve a balance between microbial and chemical risks.

Full Article

Cite the article as:

Radhakrishnan, M., Pathirana, A., Ghebremichael, K., & Amy, G. (2012). Modelling formation of disinfection by-products in water distribution: optimisation using a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm. Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology—AQUA, 61(3), 176. IWA Publishing. doi:10.2166/aqua.2012.179