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Researchers at the University of Brighton have developed low-cost tools to protect water supplies in southern England.



Since the adoption of the EU Water Framework Directive in 2000 (transposed into the Water Environment Regulations 2017 in England & Wales), there has been a shift towards a holistic approach to water management.



Researchers from the University of Brighton have developed a novel, low-cost bacteriophage-based microbial source tracking approach that can be used to identify unknown sources of faecal contamination in surface waters. Subsequent work established an integrated framework for monitoring and managing faecal pollution in catchments.

The researchers partnered with South East Water Ltd to assess whether hydrometric monitoring data could be used to predict peaks in the pesticide metaldehyde. Model-generated risk maps were used to predict areas where the highest peaks in metaldehyde were likely to occur.

Thames Water commissioned the researchers to determine the removal efficacy of a full-scale membrane bioreactor water reuse system at the Old Ford water plant (Olympic Park, London) – the largest wastewater recycling facility in the UK.



The outcomes have improved water quality, changed water management policy, and built skills capacity for South East Water, Southern Water, and Thames Water, enabling these companies to provide cleaner and more secure water supplies to their combined 13.5 million customers.

Monitoring approaches for the pesticide metaldehyde have reduced average concentrations by 55% in catchments managed by South East Water, saving £158 million in additional water treatment costs.

The research confirmed the suitability of membrane bioreactor technology to augment potable water supplies.

Research outputs provided the data necessary to support the design and development of South East Water’s Peacehaven Reuse Scheme, a key strategic long-term water resource option.


More information 

Institution: University of Brighton

Researchers: Dr Sarah, Purnell, Professor James Ebdon, Professor Huw Taylor

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Improving and protecting domestic water sources​. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>