Articles | Volume 10, issue 2
Research article
16 Oct 2017
Research article |  | 16 Oct 2017

Modeling particle transport and discoloration risk in drinking water distribution networks

Joost van Summeren and Mirjam Blokker

Abstract. Discoloration of drinking water is a worldwide phenomenon caused by accumulation and subsequent remobilization of particulate matter in drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs). It contributes a substantial fraction of customer complaints to water utilities. Accurate discoloration risk predictions could improve system operation by allowing for more effective programs on cleaning and prevention actions and field measurements, but are challenged by incomplete understanding on the origins and properties of particles and a complex and not fully understood interplay of processes in distribution networks. In this paper, we assess and describe relevant hydraulic processes that govern particle transport in turbulent pipe flow, including gravitational settling, bed-load transport, and particle entrainment into suspension. We assess which transport mechanisms are dominant for a range of bulk flow velocities, particle diameters, and particle mass densities, which includes common conditions for DWDSs in the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. Our analysis shows that the theoretically predicted particle settling velocity and threshold shear stresses for incipient particle motion are in the same range as, but more variable than, previous estimates from lab experiments, field measurements, and modeling. The presented material will be used in the future development of a numerical modeling tool to determine and predict the spatial distribution of particulate material and discoloration risk in DWDSs. Our approach is aimed at understanding specific causalities and processes, which can complement data-driven approaches.

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Short summary
The build-up and subsequent remobilization of microscopic particles can cause discoloration of drinking water during distribution. We theoretically investigated the relevant transport processes and dependencies on flow conditions and particle properties. The presented theoretical framework is intended as a starting point for a numerical tool to help water utilities determine regions of high discoloration risk and reduce these risks, e.g., by designing more efficient pipe cleaning programs.