Major RSC water report calls for higher quality


10 December 2007

A major report into the UK's water supply, to be published Monday by the Royal Society of Chemistry, will call for a greater emphasis on its future quality. 

In recent years new contaminants have entered the water system after use by the wider population, for example, by excretion of medicines and by-products, and personal heath care products such as musk perfumes. 

However the UK's current water treatment waste works are not designed to remove all of these types of products, so currently some contaminants remain in the water sources.

The call for greater research into environmental contaminants comes in Sustainable Water: Chemical Science Priorities which will be launched at the Royal Society of Chemistry at Burlington House in London.

Dr Jeff Hardy, Environment and Energy Manager of the RSC said: "There are several key questions that chemists, and other scientists, are working hard on answering. How are contaminants broken down? What are the products of that breakdown? What are the properties of these breakdown products? The basic chemistry of these reactions needs to be understood to minimise risks to human and environmental health." 

Dr Hardy added: "The report shows that the outlook is positive and that there is a great opportunity for green product design.  If we have a complete understanding of the environmental fate of contaminants then it is possible to design chemicals and products that are highly effective in their use, and at end of life, are reusable and/or recyclable or degrade quickly in the environment to products with minimal risk to human and environmental health."

The publication of the report is the first step in a timely RSC 2008 campaign on sustainable water. Providing sufficient quantities of water at an appropriate standard to satisfy domestic, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs is a global challenge.  To do this in a sustainable way in the face of massive population growth, climate change and man-made pollution, is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

With contributions from 29 scientists, the full report investigates eight aspects of sustainable water management including resources, demands, treatment, monitoring, fate of contaminants, health, efficiency and green product design.

Dr Hardy added: "Whilst many people might not be interested in what happens to their nice smelling shower gel after it has disappeared down the drain, chemists and employees of the water industry most certainly are.  The chemical sciences will play a vital role in progressing us towards sustainable water management.  This report tackles all of the big issues and makes 57 recommendations to those with the authority to act upon them.  This represents an important first step in an RSC campaign and over the coming months and years we will be working very hard to bring these recommendations to reality." 

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