Research Programme

The objective of the Drinking Water Quality and Health Evidence programme is to provide the science base for policy on drinking water quality encompassing both health and consumer acceptability issues. The provision of an adequate supply of water that is safe to drink is a fundamental human requirement. The supply should also be aesthetically acceptable to consumers. This is inline with DWI’s Vision and Strategic Objectives for 2020-2025 which addresses long term future challenges to maintain and improve water quality and sufficiency in England and Wales.

The adequacy of current levels of health protection is under continuous review and the decisions of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which sets global drinking water quality and health guideline values, are an important element. Future regulatory proposals may arise for chemical, microbiological and aesthetic parameters and so DWI must keep abreast of all these areas.

The programme as a whole, includes work to support the approval process for chemical and products in contact with drinking water and projects aimed at better understanding the best practice in drinking in water regulation, and also assesses risks to health in relation to emerging issues,and rapid methods of analysis to be deployed in the event of a threat to drinking water quality.

Current Research

Information on our part of our research programme, giving the description, objectives, contractors and costings can be found on the Defra science and research project database: under the theme Drinking Water Quality and Health. Please search for both project codes “WT12” and “WT22” via the search engine to view all of our projects.

Ongoing new work includes:

Microplastics removal in drinking water treatment processes (WT2217) undertaken by Cranfield University.

The aim of this project is to provide an understanding of potential exposure of consumers to microplastics through drinking water and provide a starting point for assessing any associated risk.

Microplastics are defined as particles of plastic that are smaller the 5mm in diameter. Their presence in water and effects on fauna has led to concerns about ecological risk particularly in the marine environment.

The issue of microplastics in freshwater systems in now emerging areas of research. Defra has already funded some work on microplastic in rivers and sewage treatment (as yet unpublished). There have been a number of reviews on the topic including the Foundation for Water Research, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, the global Water Research Coalition, and the Foundation for Water Research . Common themes emerging from these are that there are no harmonised methods of analysis and that whilst waste water treatment provides effective removal, high number of particles are likely to be present in fresh waters and little is known about removal in drinking water treatment processes.

More recently there have been reports of microplastics in drinking water.

Existing water treatment processes provide an effective barrier to a wide range of particle sizes but is less effective in the micrometre range. Little is known about removal of microplastics in drinking water treatment. This project will help close that gap.

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