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Predicted Impact of Climate Change on Trihalomethanes Formation in Drinking Water Treatment

Lookup NU author(s): Maria Valdivia-Garcia, Professor David GrahamORCiD, Professor David WernerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Quantitative predictions of impacts on public water supplies are essential for planning climate change adaptations. Monitoring data from five full-scale Scottish drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) showed that significant correlations exist between conditionally carcinogenic trihalomethanes (THMs) levels, water temperature (r = 0.812, p = 0.0013) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) (r = 0.892, p < 0.0001), respectively. The strong seasonality of these parameters demonstrated how climate can influence THMs formation. We quantified with laboratory experiments the sensitivity of THMs formation to changes in water temperature and DOC concentration. The laboratory data accurately reproduced real-world THM formation in the DWTPs. We then combined these validated relationships with information from the literature about future trends in mean summer temperatures and surface water DOC in the British Isles, to estimate future global warming impacts on THMs formation in DWTPs that use chlorine for disinfection. An increase in mean summer temperatures will likely increase THM formation, with a 1.8 °C temperature increase and 39% THMs increase by 2050 representing our mid-range scenario. Such an increase has major implications to potable water around the world, either an increased health risk or increased water treatment costs to maintain an equivalent quality potable supply.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Valdivia-Garcia M, Weir P, Graham DW, Werner D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2019

Volume: 9

Pages: 1-10

Print publication date: 10/09/2019

Online publication date: 10/09/2019

Acceptance date: 25/06/2019

Date deposited: 12/07/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Springer Nature


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-46238-0


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