Towards automated monitoring of microbial water quality

Published on 07/11/2023

Collecting meaningful data for microbial risk assessment in water is paramount and requires representative samples. Given the inherent variability of microbiological water quality in groundwater and surface water, automated monitoring of microbial water quality can provide earlier warning of episodes of contamination.

Organised by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) on 6 December 2023, the MicrobialSensors4Water technical day will present the latest developments and applications as well as the challenges and perspectives of automated microbial water quality monitoring. Ahead of this conference, Jean-Baptiste Burnet, a Research & Technology Associate in the Environmental Research and Innovation department of LIST, shared insights on automated monitoring of microbial water quality.

What is automated monitoring of microbial water quality?

Jean-Baptiste Burnet: Automated monitoring of microbial water quality is the process of detecting and quantifying (directly or indirectly) the presence of microorganisms in water in a fully automated way and a high temporal resolution. Recent technological developments over the past decade have led to the commercialization of instruments that enable to implement this new way of investigating and monitoring microbial (essentially bacteriological) water quality in water resources. Sample-to-result times are drastically reduced to <1h, which enables near real-time monitoring and managing of risks associated with these microorganisms in water.

What is automated monitoring of microbial water quality for?

Jean-Baptiste Burnet: The technologies available today can be implemented across the water cycle for automated, rapid and high-frequency monitoring of microbial water quality. Such monitoring strategy can be applied in groundwater, surface water or wastewater as well as in drinking water or recycled water. End-users can be found in the water, food and beverage, as well as the pharmaceutical industries. Other applications are also found in recreational or military/humanitarian contexts, as long as water quality needs to be checked and monitored.

What are the challenges and opportunities ahead?

Jean-Baptiste Burnet: While automated monitoring of microbial water quality has been shown to be technically feasible in a variety of applications and contexts, and provide a wealth of new knowledge on natural and built water systems, several challenges need to be addressed before the full potential of these new tools can unfold. Some relate to the actual implementation of these new technologies by end-users due to currently high acquisition costs, while others are linked to data handling and interpretation but also overall acceptance of new microbial water quality parameters as opposed to the well established routine assays. These challenges, along with the opportunities for the water sector will be addressed by various speakers during the technical day.

To find out more about the latest findings in automated monitoring of microbial water quality, register for the MicrobialSensors4Water technical day, organised by LIST and sponsored by bNovate Technologies, ColiMinder and microLAN.

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 Jean-Baptiste BURNET
Jean-Baptiste BURNET
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