In this investigation, high-performance size exclusion chromatography (HPSEC) was used to characterise organic matter in treated drinking water at key sampling locations along two selected distribution systems (chlorinated and chloraminated). Other water quality parameters such as colour, UV254, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and assimilable organic carbon (AOC) as measured by bacterial regrowth potential (BRP), were also determined. One of the aims of this work was to develop new tools to monitor organic character change along the distribution system in order to identify impacting factors and develop management strategies based on water quality change. This study used samples from two contrasting distribution systems with different disinfection regimes and organic characteristics together with samples generated from laboratory simulations. System 1 is a chlorinated distribution system and generally requires elevated chlorine dosage to meet the demand due to the high DOC level. System 2 is a chloraminated system with stable water quality, low DOC and low chloramine dose (mild oxidation). Molecular size distribution determination using HPSEC is a very informative technique in assessing treatment processes and in this study the appearance of a molecular peak at 1,700 Da that can be used as an indicator of biological activity in distribution systems was confirmed. The use of BRP values, for upstream and downstream samples in the distribution system, was found to be a good approach to assess biological impacts on water stability. The observed biological impact from the biofilms between the studied systems were particularly useful in confirming the organic characterisation results.

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