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Curtin University
Curtin Water Quality Research Centre

Aesthetics of Drinking Water

Consumer complaints regarding taste and odour of drinking water remains a significant issue for the water industry. CWQRC researchers have carried out groundbreaking research on various organoleptic problems in water, including presence of malodours in drinking water caused by biofilm micro-organisms, as well as a study that discovered that water from certain sources formed an unpleasant taste when the residual chlorine disinfectant in the water reacted with traces of phenol (a contaminant in many plastics) leached from plastic materials, particularly electric kettles.

Current and Recent Projects

Causes and Prevention of Chlorinous Off-Flavours in Potable Water

Key contacts: Suzanne McDonald, Cynthia Joll
Collaborators: Water Corporation
Funded by: Water Corporation, CRC WQT

Chlorinous tastes and odours (off-flavours) are the single most significant cause of taste and odour-related consumer complaints to water utilities in Australia. Although the causes of chlorinous off-flavours are often attributed to high concentrations of chlorine, it has been shown that they can occur even when the concentration of free chlorine is much lower than its odour threshold concentration. The objectives of this project were to establish an odour panel at CWQRC and use the panel to determine the odour threshold concentrations and odour characteristics for various odorous compounds related to chlorinous odours. This information was then used to identify sites across Perth’s water supply system where chlorinous odours are caused by excess free chlorine equivalents and where compounds other than chlorine cause chlorinous odours.

Chlorinous Off-Flavours in Drinking Water

Key Contacts: Hanna Driessen (PhD Student), Cynthia Joll, Anna Heitz
Funded by: CRCWQT

The main focus of the project is to further investigate the prevalence and causes of chlorinous odours. This will include examination of the roles of chlorination practices, bromide, and natural organic matter (NOM), especially nitrogenous organic compounds in the causes of chlorinous odours and to determine whether changes in water treatment practices or methods can decrease the extent of consumer complaints related to chlorinous odours. Causative off-flavour compounds formed from reactions of halogens with model compounds will be identified, and an understanding of their mechanism of formation will be developed, aiding identification of process solutions to the problem.