The efficiency of sedimentation is dependent on settling tank design and operation, where the streamlined solid–liquid separation results in water of safe potable quality. It is therefore important that the tank design and operation are sufficiently optimised. Sedimentation tanks are commonly overdesigned, leading to unwarranted capital expenditure, and overloading. This study used computational fluid dynamics to model the current conditions of two full-scale sedimentation tanks of different lengths at a large drinking water treatment plant in South Africa, using the shear stress transport turbulence model. The flow dynamics and the polyelectrolyte flocculated particle settling efficiency between the short tank and the long tank were compared. Recirculation zones near the inlet were pronounced in the short tank, which resulted in particles being drawn towards the outlets. The flow in the long tank isolated the inlet and outlet, with low particle volume fractions and particle velocities at the weirs. The particle removal in both tanks was greater than 99%; however, removal was higher in the long tank (99.86%), hence it was more efficient despite greater infrastructure cost. Computational fluid dynamics modelling is a tremendous operational tool which can review the performance of alternative tank designs and provide valuable input into future design.

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