European first for Scottish Water as online water technology goes live

Posted: Tuesday 13th March 2018

Scottish Water is the first utility in Europe to use new online technology which will revolutionise water sampling across the country.

The company is trialling an online bacteria monitor which it hopes will significantly improve the accuracy of water sampling and reduce the time it takes from up to five days to just 15 minutes.

The flow cytometry technology, known as On Cyt, is being used at the Glencorse Water Treatment Works near Edinburgh, to analyse the water quality of a sample in real-time, giving a count of all bacteria in the sample.

As Scottish Water marks British Science Week 2018, it’s the latest example of how science plays a big part in our delivery of 1.35 billion litres of clear, fresh and safe water to customers every day.

Claire Thom, Scottish Water’s water science team leader, explained: “This technology completely revolutionises the traditional methods whereby any bacteria contained in a water sample have to be grown and incubated in the laboratory for three to five days before we get a reading.

“The results are regularly inconclusive as less than 1% of bacteria can be isolated this way, often there wouldn’t be any bacteria growth or the growth would be random. The traditional method makes it more difficult for us to link the results back to poor water quality.

“Using the flow cytometer removes the need for us to grow the bacteria in the lab so now we can directly measure them within a sample using laser technology. By adding a fluorescent dye to the sample, the instrument counts the bacterial cells giving us an accurate result in around 15 minutes.”

The latest technology allows Scottish Water scientists to operate the bacteria monitor online, enabling them to set up the equipment at any treatment works in Scotland, feed a sample line into a point of interest and monitor the bacteria at regular intervals.

The technology produces more regular counts which mean scientists can establish what is going on across different water treatment stages and accurately assess the treatment performance of a water treatment works.

Prior to this, the sampling of a whole treatment works would have taken several scientists weeks to collect and analyse the data. The online monitor reduces man hours improving speed and accuracy of samples.

Scottish Water is currently trialling the monitor at Glencorse WTW and will be transporting it to various locations in its network.

The utility is leading the field to reap the full benefits of what this new technology can do for water quality and public health in Scotland.

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April 2021

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