The impact of climate change on the treatability of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in upland water supplies: A UK perspective

J. P. Ritson, N. J.D. Graham, M. R. Templeton, J. M. Clark, R. Gough, C. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Climate change in the UK is expected to cause increases in temperatures, altered precipitation patterns and more frequent and extreme weather events. In this review we discuss climate effects on dissolved organic matter (DOM), how altered DOM and water physico-chemical properties will affect treatment processes and assess the utility of techniques used to remove DOM and monitor water quality. A critical analysis of the literature has been undertaken with a focus on catchment drivers of DOM character, removal of DOM via coagulation and the formation of disinfectant by-products (DBPs). We suggest that: (1) upland catchments recovering from acidification will continue to produce more DOM with a greater hydrophobic fraction as solubility controls decrease; (2) greater seasonality in DOM export is likely in future due to altered precipitation patterns; (3) changes in species diversity and water properties could encourage algal blooms; and (4) that land management and vegetative changes may have significant effects on DOM export and treatability but require further research. Increases in DBPs may occur where catchments have high influence from peatlands or where algal blooms become an issue. To increase resilience to variable DOM quantity and character we suggest that one or more of the following steps are undertaken at the treatment works: a) 'enhanced coagulation' optimised for DOM removal; b) switching from aluminium to ferric coagulants and/or incorporating coagulant aids; c) use of magnetic ion-exchange (MIEX) pre-coagulation; and d) activated carbon filtration post-coagulation. Fluorescence and UV absorbance techniques are highlighted as potential methods for low-cost, rapid on-line process optimisation to improve DOM removal and minimise DBPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-730
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • Catchment water quality
  • Climate change
  • Coagulation
  • Disinfection by-products
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Drinking water treatment


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