Water in Ireland is a major and valued natural resource, and having access to good quality water for drinking and bathing offers significant competitive advantages to sectors such as industry, agriculture, and tourism. Public health safety and reducing the risk of gastro intestinal illness especially for outbreaks of pathogens (E.coli and intestinal Enterococci) is an over-riding concern. In particular, the impacts of pollution from urban run-off, wastewater discharges, and from agricultural sources – especially after heavy rain, are a continuing threat especially in our more built up areas.
An innovative technological project between The Water Systems and Services Innovation Centre (WSSIC) and Cork-based start-up, Hydrolight, aims to address this problem by developing a real-time monitoring technology for the detection of bacteria and nutrients in drinking and bathing water. The €500k project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland and runs for 2 years, commencing in April 2017.
Fin Murray, CEO of Hydrolight, identified that “current water analysis methods are mainly lab based, time consuming and expensive, samples are transported back to the laboratory and cases results are obtained days later. All the while a contamination event is developing – and is becoming potentially more dangerous and more expensive to remediate. An added pressure within the water industry, particularly with regards to water monitoring technologies currently, is that there are limited real-time techniques to detect the wide range of potential contaminants in existence in the water environment.”
Developments in water analysis and communications technology may provide an alternative to the current situation. What if our water was monitored from source to tap? To be able to tell quickly if a pollution event is developing. To be able to deploy rapid response protocols to clean up and close off the event before any damage to the environment or to public health. To be able to enforce regulation by knowing the where, when and how of a contamination event.
Kevin Fitzgibbon, co-ordinator of WSSIC says “this project aims to develop a viable innovative technological solution to monitor current and future water pollution and to ultimately protect human health and water supply sources. It will demonstrate and test a real-time monitoring technology which is potentially capable of covering pathogens in drinking and bathing water and nutrients in terms of river monitoring. This project develops a novel technological solution and will not only contribute to addressing environmental challenges and water management issues in Ireland, but in Europe and globally.”