Skip to content
Curtin University
Curtin Water Quality Research Centre

Drinking Water Distribution Systems

The sprawling nature of many of Australia’s capital cities and sparsely populated regional areas means that there are many water supply systems with very long distribution systems. All potable water supplies require a disinfectant to inactivate pathogens. While chlorine is the most commonly used disinfectant in Australia, its main disadvantage is that it decays too rapidly for effective residuals to be maintained at the extremities of long distribution systems. Chloramine is an effective disinfectant which is much more stable than chlorine and offers considerable advantages over alternative technologies, however chloramine can also decay rapidly in water distribution systems under challenging conditions. CWQRC has undertaken a number of projects investigating disinfectant decay in regional Western Australia in particular.

Current and Recent Projects

Investigation into the Causes of Chlorine Decay in the West Pilbara Water Supply System

Key Contacts: Suzanne McDonald, Anna Heitz
Collaborators: Water Corporation
Funded by: Water Corporation

Water quality at Harding Dam, part of the West Pilbara water supply system (WPWSS) in North-Western Australia, is subject to long term variations due to high temperatures causing evaporation and low rainfall between cyclone-related rain events that may only occur every few years. Maintaining a chlorine residual throughout the distribution system is often difficult due to the warm climate, however, UV irradiation may provide an additional barrier in areas where chlorine levels are low. Contrasting reports have been made on the effect of UV irradiation on chlorinated water, suggesting that its effectiveness varies, depending on the physico-chemical characteristics of source water. The aim of this project is to assess the impact of UV irradiation on chlorine stability and disinfection by-product formation in chlorinated treated water in the WPWSS.

Novel Technology for Improving Disinfection Outcomes in Regional and Remote Drinking Water Distribution Systems

Key contacts: Anna Heitz, Cynthia Joll, Ina Kristiana
Collaborators: Water Corporation, CSIRO and Dept of Civil Engineering, Curtin University
Funded by: ARC Linkage and Water Corporation

The aim of this project is to develop technology that will improve the effectiveness and reliability of drinking water disinfection, particularly in rural and remote communities. While chloramination is a well-established disinfection method, especially in Australia and the US, more widespread use of this technology has been limited, largely because of practical difficulties involved in managing degradation of chloramine through microbial processes, including a well-known process called nitrification. The aim of this project is to develop a suitable inhibitor to minimise microbial activity responsible for chloramine decay, model the behaviour of the various chemical species involved in microbial processes, and use of molecular microbiological tools to characterise microbial populations causing nitrification.