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Provenance of drinking water revealed through compliance sampling

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>29/05/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts
Volume21
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1052-1064
Publication statusPublished
Early online date29/05/19
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Understanding drinking water hydrochemistry is essential for maintaining safe drinking water supplies. Whilst targeted research surveys have characterised drinking water hydrochemistry, vast compliance datasets are routinely collected but are not interrogated amidst concerns regarding the impact of mixed water sources, treatment, the distribution network and customer pipework. In this paper, we examine whether compliance samples retain hydrochemical signatures of their provenance. We first created and subsequently undertook the first hydrochemical analysis of a novel national database of publically available drinking water compliance analyses (n = 3,873,941) reported for 2015 across England and Wales. K-means cluster analysis revealed three spatially coherent clusters. Cluster 1 is dominated by groundwater sources, with high nitrate concentrations and mineralisation, and lower organic carbon, residual chlorine and THM formation. Cluster 2 was dominated by surface water sources and characterised by low mineralisation (low conductivity and major ion concentrations), low nitrate and high organic carbon concentrations (and hence residual chlorine and THM formation). Cluster 3 shows a mixture of groundwater overlain by confining layers and superficial deposits (resulting in higher trace metal concentrations and mineralisation) and surface water sources. These analyses demonstrate that, despite extensive processing of drinking water, at the national scale signatures of the provenance of drinking water remain. Analysis of compliance samples is therefore likely to be a helpful tool in the characterisation of processes that may affect drinking water chemistry. The methodology used is generic and can be applied in any area where drinking water chemistry samples are taken.