Toward the development of an EDSS for water treatment works: from basic research to optimal operation at full-scale

The main objective of WATSON (WATer treatment workS OperatioN/OptimizatioN) project is to take a step forward toward a resilient, robust and reliable operation of drinking water treatment plants under changing circumstances using an environmental decision support system (EDSS) as a tool to facilitate the integration of various complementary knowledges.

Water treatment works (WTWs) provide an essential public service whose primary aim is to provide drinkable water. Several factors affect potable water treatment: turbidity, natural organic matter (NOM), biological agents, taste and odor-causing compounds, and low levels of anthropogenic organic compounds. The influence of seasonality and catchment characteristics configure different and complex perturbations that eventually leads to a high complexity for the plant management and its adaptation to the raw water conditions.

One of the biggest challenges of the WTWs is to strike a balance between using disinfection to control microbiological risks and preventing the formation of undesirable manmade chemicals caused by disinfectants (DPBs) by removing NOM. WATSON project will tackle three main issues regarding WTWs optimization: i) NOMs characterization, ii) optimization and modelling and iii) development of a knowledge-based EDSS for a proper management of WTWs. The application of profuse characterization methodologies for NOM should shed light into the mechanisms and reasons for (in)efficiency of full scale WTWs operated under changing circumstances. NOM fractionation by High Performance Size Exclusion Chromatography (HPSEC) in combination with Reversed Phase liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) will enable a deeper understanding of the fate of NOM within the WTWs treatment train, and ultimately, the contribution of the different fractions to the formation of DBPs. 

More efficient WTWs operation, in terms of performance for NOM removal at reduced operational cost, may be accomplished through the integrated assessment of unit operations in a treatment train. Within the WATSON project, bench-scale test will be performed to gain further understanding of the influence of the operating conditions for coagulation/flocculation (optimum NOM removal/turbidity removal) over downstream GAC filters and ultrafiltration membranes.. Mathematical modelling will provide a reliable tool for the description of WTWs unit operations. The developed models will use data obtained from full-scale WTWs in compliance with applied research to a) generate an on-line monitoring tool permitting the prediction of DBP formation potential and, b) describe the optimal operation for NOM removal in an integrated way.

All the gathered knowledge will be hierarchically structured in an EDSS, which will include on-line data acquisition and applied research data to an on-line database. The different type of models developed will be implemented in the EDSS, which will enable the identification of different scenarios and cope with the uncommon circumstances. Different control modules will be developed for each unit operation to assist its optimization. A knowledge-based control module will supervise the real-time interactions between the operations in the WTWs. Further validation of this EDSS will be done in a full-scale facility according to the stakeholder’s demands. 

Principal investigator: Dr Maria Martín


Duration:36 months
Total budget:
LEQUIA grant:154.880€
Program:Retos de Investigación