Forecasting Risk of Environmental Exacerbation of Dissolved Organic Matter - Building Climate Change Resilience (FREEDOM-BCCR)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Water Resources (Lancaster)

Abstract

The water industry faces intensifying risks to its water treatment systems through rising dissolved organic matter (DOM) concentrations, especially in upland raw water supplies which provide 70% of the UK's drinking water. Rain and meltwater percolating through soils transports DOM to reservoirs. The water industry has to restrict DOM concentrations to minimise taste and odour problems, reduce the potential for algal growth, and prevent the generation of potentially harmful levels of disinfection bi-products, formed from reactions between DOM and chemical disinfectants. DOM concentrations are increasing primarily as a result of an increase in soil organic matter solubility in response to regional reductions in atmospheric pollutants to soils. However, DOM levels in upland waters are also sensitive to variation, and long-term change, in soil temperatures, amounts and intensity of precipitation, the ionic strength of soil waters, the residence time of reservoirs, and seasalt deposition events during winter storms. The influence of these climate-related effects is increasing as organic matter continues to become more soluble. Currently, the primary industry approach to reduce DOM concentrations is the application of coagulant to precipitate the organic matter from the water, but additional filtration may also be required to remove DOM compounds that are less sensitive to this chemical effect. Both processes have a significant carbon footprint and are estimated to have already cost the industry hundreds of millions of pounds through the installation of new equipment where existing infrastructure was no longer able to deal with rising DOM concentrations. There is a pressing need, therefore, to foster a Climate Change Resilience Community that will combine the extensive expertise of the research and industry communities in the UK in order to address this challenge. FREEDOM-BCCR will develop an entirely new approach to understanding, managing, and planning responses to DOM increases in response to climate change. The community will provide the basis of support for decision making and will deliver adaptive (e.g. infrastructure investment) and mitigative (e.g. land-use interventions) approaches with which to build resilience in the upland water supply. We will augment the capability of a prototype Decision Support tool (DSt), developed by the current NERC FREEDOM Project with support from for Scottish Water, by incorporating catchment-specific climate change projections, predictive models and industry knowledge. This development of the FREEDOM DSt will fill critical knowledge gaps in model functionality including climate change impacts on soil and in-reservoir processing of DOM. We will define operational thresholds for DOM quantity and quality across the treatment chain and combine these to produce forecasts, at a UK scale, of DOM risk to drinking water supply.
Proposed activities and respective Work Packages include: generation of UKCP18-based climate change projections using Hydro-JULES downscaled to specific catchments (WP1); Coupling of downscaled climate predictions with catchment and lake/reservoir models to explore the potential impact of climate change in influencing seasonal variation in DOM quantity, quality and vertical distribution in priority intensively monitored drinking water reservoirs and their catchments (WP2); validation of predictions of DOM quantity and quality produced by the FREEDOM DSt, beyond the parameterisation data set from Scottish Water, using hind-casting informed by wider UK industry data (WP3); upscaling application of the FREEDOM-UK DSt to provide predictions of the effects of climate change, land-use change and air pollution scenarios on DOM quantity and quality in other regions of the UK (WP4); and, foster the FREEDOM Climate Change Resilience Community focussing on co-development, application, and show-casing the FREEDOM-UK DSt through a programme of knowledge exchange activities (WP5).

Planned Impact

The overall outcome of the project will be a complete overhaul of the UK water industry's approach to managing the risk of rising DOM, from one currently based on short-term, localised, reactive strategies to a much longer-term, scientifically-informed and business-led approach.
The benefits of the project to industry will be immediate and direct, through access to a co-designed Decision Support tool (DSt), and more gradual through consolidation of newly forged close working relationships through the Climate Change Resilience Community, including NERC research centres, universities and other industry partners. This project will build the foundation of this community, focussing it on addressing the DOM problem. However, we will identify other shared priorities in terms of climate change impacts on water quality including increased nutrient loading leading to heightened risk of cyanobacteria as a result of increased precipitation and temperature, and increased likelihood of metal release from bed sediments as a result of changes in vertical stratification leading to hypoxia. These shared risks will ensure that the outcomes of this project will extend considerably beyond its life and we will work with industry to establish continuation of knowledge sharing and transfer mechanisms, joint studentships, and ongoing research.
The primary scientific output from the project will be the development of a co-designed DSt, underpinned by NERC science and informatics expertise. This will, for the first time, provide UK Water Industry with the capability to respond to: future DOM trajectories and extremes at current/potential future plant locations; changing chemical properties of DOM that affect treatability; the need to plan strategically for catchments at most and least risk of worsening water quality; and the need to implement mitigation measures in catchments where the risk is deemed to be unacceptable and where alternative locations for treatment works are economically unviable, over the coming decades. Industry will be better equipped to conduct strategic planning, for example, identifying when future investments relating to water quality issues may be required. This information will be combined to develop plans and strategies at industry and UK scale to deliver a more climate change resilient UK Water Industry. By informing decisions on where and when to introduce catchment based solutions or new treatment assets, the project could result in savings to the industry, and consequently to water customers, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds.
All UK water utilities that source water from upland catchments (e.g. United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Welsh Water, Southwest Water, Northumbrian Water, Northern Ireland Water), as well as Irish Water, face the same threat of rising DOM levels. While the NERC FREEDOM project co-developed the FREEDOM DSt to inform Scottish Water's decision making specifically, this project will scale up co-development to meet wider industry needs to produce a DSt with UK application. Representatives from all interested companies will be invited to the project dissemination meeting, where they will be given the opportunity to become involved in further testing and development of the DSt in ways that may best meet their individual DOM treatment priorities. Promotion by web-based conferencing of the outcomes of the project by the Water Research Foundation will bring the outcomes of the project to an international audience and could go on to influence approaches to managing DOM increases in other parts of the world.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/S016937/1 01/02/2019 30/11/2019 £251,502
NE/S016937/2 Transfer NE/S016937/1 01/12/2019 30/10/2020 £62,876
 
Title FREEDOM Decision Support Tool 
Description As a major FREEDOM project deliverable, we have developed, and provided Scottish Water with, a computer-based decision support tool that provides them with predictions of future trajectories of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in a range of their source water reservoirs. The tool is based on algorithms that predict changes in DOM as a consequence of the predicted future change in water electrical conductivity - a response to expected future reductions in acid pollutants. Electrical conductivity is determined from recently collected measurements of water electrical conductivity, sulphate and chloride concentration. The modelling approach is set out in the internal report to Scottish Water and will also be written up as a scientific publication in a water industry-focused journal. In the FREEDOM-BCCR project we are developing the model to incorporate the expected impact of future climate change on DOM concentrations in these waters. The focus here is on assessing differences between catchments in their responses to variations in antecedent temperature, precipitation and soil moisture and relating these to catchment characteristics. The aim is to be able to determine likely climate sensitivity on the basis of information such as soil type, land cover type and water residence time. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact At Scottish Waters FREEDOM-focused Science Conference in October 2019, a Senior Process Engineer at Scottish Water set out how the Decision Support Tool was now being integrated within the company's water treatment systems analysis, and contributing to assessments of future viability of DOM treatment assets. 
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation Scottish Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation United Utilities Group PLC
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation Welsh Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description CEH - University - Water Industry Collaboration on the FREEDOM-BCCR project 
Organisation Yorkshire Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CEH have been leading four out of five Work Packages, concerned with climate forecasting, climate impact modelling, lake modelling, and valuation of treatment-related financial consequences of DOM increases in upland drinking water supplies, and have led the project workshops involving all partners that have been held on an approximately quarterly basis. Colleagues from the University of Leeds and Glasgow have been leading the Building the climate change community partnership community.
Collaborator Contribution The FREEDOM-BCCR project comprises an active partnership involving all the above organisations who have helped shape the project from the outset. All industry partners have provided representatives at FREEDOM-BCCR project workshops that have been held at an approximately quarterly frequency. Industry partners have also provided data that is allowing CEH to develop a climate change component for the Decision Support Tool developed under the NERC ERIIP FREEDOM project, and are participating in a current valuation exercise that is focused on specific water drinking water sources managed by Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and Welsh Water. A representative from Scottish Water represented the project at the IWA Specialist Conference on Natural Organic Matter in Water, in Japan in October 2019 and will also present the project at the 2020 Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in the USA.
Impact The project has another 5 months to run and has yet to produce outputs.
Start Year 2019
 
Description FREEDOM-BCCR climate impact valuation workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The valuation workshop was held on the CEH Lancaster premises on December 4th 2019. It involved the CEH project team and representatives from Scottish Water, United Utilities, Welsh Water and Yorkshire Water, and focused on the development of a common approach to the economic valuation of the industry response required to address per unit increases in Dissolved Organic Matter. It was agreed that the water industry representatives would each provide CEH with water quality data for selected water sources. These would form the basis for subsequent modelling by CEH. The industry representatives would then map out the treatment steps and associated costs required to ensure water quality compliance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description FREEDOM-BCCR project workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A FREEDOM-BCCR project workshop was held at the National Museum of Scotland on the 10th October involving the project team, representatives from Scottish Water, Yorkshire Water, Welsh Water, United Utilities and Irish Water, and international experts on Dissolved Organic Matter (Heleen de Wit, NIVA, Norway and Filip Oulehle, Czech Geological Surve, Prague. The team provided updates on all work packages, and engaged with the industry representative and international experts in discussing next steps. The afternoon session focused on developing a valuation approach to assess the economic implications of climate-driven changes in dissolved organic matter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation at 12th Conference of the UK Network on Potable Water Treatment & Supply (2019): Cranfield University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This conference was the twelfth in an annual series focusing on drinking water production from source to tap. Attendees of the conference have the opportunity to talk to decision makers from water companies and leading researchers, with speakers drawn from both academia and industry. Don Monteith gave a presentation summarising the FREEDOM and FREEDOM-BCCR projects with specific reference to climate change impacts on Dissolved Organic Matter. The talk was originally to be given by Professor Pippa Chapman who is a member of the FREEDOM Advisory group and a partner under FREEDOM-BCCR. Monteith and Chapman distributed a questionnaire at the workshop to determine the audience's perception of various climate change risks to drinking water sources. Approximately 40 participants responded, and the outcome has been used to inform later project workshops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/events/events-2019/conference-potable-water-treatment-supply
 
Description Scottish Water Science Conference 2019: the FREEDOM project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The conference was hosted by Scottish Water and was focused on the the outcomes of the FREEDOM project and the aims of the FREEDOM-BCCR project. The meeting comprised circa 80 attendees with ~60% from the water industry (Scottish Water and 5 other UK water companies), and the rest a mix of academics, Scottish regulators, Scottish Government representatives, and other key stakeholders in Scotland with an interest in natural organic matter in drinking water supplies. The agenda included an introductory presentation by Scottish Water, a series of presentations by UKCEH staff (Don Monteith - project summary; Heidrun Feuchtmayer - Decision Support Tool; Amy Pickard - future research directions), and a follow up talk from Scottish Water's Senior Process Engineer who explained how the Decision Support Tool developed under FREEDOM was now being used by Scottish Water as an integral part of their larger water management evaluation system. It was explained that in the FREEDOM-BCCR project the Decision Support Tool would be further extended to incorporate effects of projected future changes in climate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019