Modelling the interplay of future changes and wastewater management measures on the microbiological river water quality considering safe drinking water production

Katalin Demeter, Julia Derx, Jürgen Komma, Juraj Parajka, Jack Schijven, Regina Sommer, Silvia Cervero-Aragó, Gerhard Lindner, Christa M Zoufal-Hruza, Rita Linke, Domenico Savio, Simone K Ixenmaier, Alexander K T Kirschner, Harald Kromp, Alfred P Blaschke, Andreas H Farnleitner

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

16 Citations (Scopus)


Rivers are important for drinking water supply worldwide. However, they are often impacted by pathogen discharges via wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and combined sewer overflows (CSO). To date, accurate predictions of the effects of future changes and pollution control measures on the microbiological water quality of rivers considering safe drinking water production are hindered due to the uncertainty of the pathogen source and transport variables. The aim of this study was to test an integrative approach for an improved understanding of these effects, i.e. climate change and population growth as well as enhanced treatment at WWTPs and/or prevention of CSOs. We applied a significantly extended version of QMRAcatch (v1.0 Python), a probabilistic-deterministic model that combines fate and transport modelling with quantitative microbial infection risk assessment. The impact of climatic changes until the period 2035-2049 was investigated by a conceptual semi-distributed hydrological model, based on regional climate model outputs. QMRAcatch was calibrated and validated using site- and source-specific data (human-associated genetic microbial source tracking marker and enterovirus). The study showed that the degree to which future changes affect drinking water safety strongly depends on the type and magnitude of faecal pollution sources and are thus highly site- and scenario-specific. For example, if the load of pathogens from WWTPs is reduced through enhanced treatment, climate-change driven increases in CSOs had a considerable impact. Preventing CSOs and installing enhanced treatment at the WWTPs together had the most significant positive effect. The simultaneous consideration of source apportionment and concentrations of reference pathogens, focusing on human-specific viruses (enterovirus, norovirus) and cross-comparison with bacterial and protozoan pathogens (Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium), was found crucial to quantify these effects. While demonstrated here for a large, wastewater-impacted river, the approach is applicable at other catchments and pollution sources. It allows assessing future changes and selecting suitable pollution control measures for long-term water safety planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144278
Pages (from-to)144278
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021


  • Animals
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Drinking Water
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Rivers
  • Waste Water
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Quality


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