The newly issued National Drinking Water Standard required that turbidity should be lower than 1 NTU, and the substitution of sand filtration by immersed ultrafiltration (immersed-UF) is feasible to achieve the standard. This study aimed to optimise the operational processes (i.e. aeration, backwashing) through pilot scale studies, to control membrane fouling while treating the sedimentation effluent. Results indicated that the immersed-UF was promising to treat the sedimentation effluent. The turbidity was below 0.10 NTU, bacteria and E. coli were not detected in the permeate water. The intermittent filtration with aeration is beneficial to inhibit membrane fouling. The critical aeration intensity is observed to be 60.0 m3 m−2 h−1. At this aeration intensity, the decline rate of permeate flux in one period of backwashing was 1.94% and 7.03% for intermittent filtration and sustained filtration respectively. The different membrane backwashing methods (i.e. aeration 1.5 min, synchronous aeration and water backwashing 2 min, water backwashing 1.5 min; synchronous aeration and water backwashing 3 min, water backwashing 2 min; aeration 3 min, single water backwashing 2 min; synchronous aeration and water backwashing 5 min; single water backwashing 5 min) on the recovery of permeate flux were compared, indicating that the synchronous aeration and water backwashing exhibited best potential for permeate flux recovery. The optimal intensity of water backwashing is shown to be 90.0 L m−2 h−1. When the actual water intensity was below or exceeded the value, the recovery rate of permeate flux would be reduced. Additionally, the average operating cost for the immersed UF membrane, including the power, the chemical cleaning reagents, and membrane modules replacement, was about 0.31 RMB/m3.

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