My research focuses on the application of novel in-situ fluorescence sensors for monitoring protein and humic signatures, which can be used as proxies for pathogens and disinfection by-product production, in drinking water supplies and treatment systems. Specifically, my PhD focuses on groundwater, the most abundant drinking water source globally.

Sensor installation at a public water supply site in the UK and a fluorescence sensor

So why is my research important? Inactivation of pathogens with chlorine is an essential part of drinking water treatment. However, chlorine also generates harmful disinfection by-products from reactions with natural organic matter (NOM). Due to the time required by established microbial and chemical analyses, as well as the transient nature of pathogen contamination and NOM in raw water supplies, there is a need for real-time sensors to monitor these processes in-situ. Fluorescence spectroscopy is a potential emerging approach.

Better understanding of the dynamic nature of links between pathogen contamination and disinfection by-product formation potential will facilitate more efficient use of treatment technologies. It will also improve understanding of the hydrological processes that control pathogen contamination, including those related to intense episodic rainfall events. This research aims to improve the monitoring, protection and management of drinking water supplies, with potential applications in water utilities and private supplies in both developed and developing economies.

I am part of the Scenario DTP and my research is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).