Management of biogenic taste and odour in potable water: from source to tap

2021-2025 (proposed)

A four-year ARC LP (application) to detect and characterise undesirable Taste and Odour (T&O) compounds in drinking water, together with the microbes that produce them, by employing chemical-sensory-molecular analytical methods. The project will build knowledge about unusual T&O beyond geosmin and MIB, the effectiveness of water treatment processes and industry-consumer relations.

Taste and Odour (T&O) are important olfactory signals that play a key role in how we judge and respond to our environment. Potable water with an unpleasant taste or smell is instinctively rejected by consumers as unsafe. Most T&O complaints are biological in origin (biogenic) and they relate to the production of volatile organic compounds by microbes in source water, or by biofilms within water pipes. Our project will investigate the full range of challenges associated with biogenic T&O, from source to tap, in order to empower Australian water utilities to improve management practices and ultimately deliver better water quality to consumers.

Focused Research Questions:

1. How can we improve chemical-sensory analytical methods to detect T&O compounds beyond geosmin and MIB?
2. How do microbial community composition and environmental conditions influence the metabolism of T&O compounds?
3. Which water treatment processes are effective at removing biogenic T&O compounds and why?
4. What is current best-practice for management of T&O complaints?
5. What is the impact of T&O complaints and their management on industry-consumer relations?
6. How can we use citizen monitoring of T&O to develop a proactive, online consumer engagement and communication framework?

Key Outcomes:

Development of framework that uses T&O wheels to engage public in detection of odorants (Fisher et al, 2018)


Richard Stuetz
Bojan Tamburic
Rita Henderson
Matthew Kearnes
Arash Zamyadi
Nick Crosbie


University of New South Wales | Melbourne Water | WaterNSW | Sydney Water | Hunter Water | Yarra Valley Water | WaterRA

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