Portable LED fluorescence instrumentation for the rapid assessment of potable water quality

Jonathan Bridgeman, A. Baker, D. Brown, J. B. Boxall

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55 Citations (Scopus)
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Characterising the organic and microbial matrix of water are key issues in ensuring the safe potable water supply. Current techniques only confirm water quality retrospectively via laboratory analysis of discrete samples. While such analysis is required for regulatory purposes, it would be highly beneficial to monitor water quality in-situ in real time, enabling rapid water quality assessment, facilitating proactive management of water supply systems.
A novel LED-based instrument, detecting fluorescence peaks C and T (surrogates for organic and microbial matter, respectively), was constructed and performance assessed. Results from over 200 samples taken from source waters through to customer tap from three UK water companies are presented. Excellent correlation was observed between the new device and a research grade spectrophotometer (r2 = 0.98 and 0.77 for peak C and peak T respectively), demonstrating the potential of providing a low cost, portable alternative fluorimeter. The Peak C / TOC correlation was very good (r2=0.75) at low TOC levels found in drinking water. However, correlations between Peak T and regulatory measures of microbial matter (2 day / 3 day HPC, E. coli, and total coliforms) were poor, due to the specific nature of these regulatory measures and the general measure of peak T. A more promising correlation was obtained between peak T and total bacteria using flow cytometry. Assessment of the fluorescence of four individual bacteria isolated from drinking water was also considered and excellent correlations found with peak T (Sphingobium sp. (r2 = 0.83); Methylobacterium sp. (r2 = 1.0); Rhodococcus sp. (r2 = 0.86); Xenophilus sp. (r2 = 0.96)). It is noteable that each of the bacteria studied exhibited different levels of florescence as a function of their number. The scope for LED based instrumentation for in-situ, real time assessment of the organic and microbial matrix of potable water is clearly demonstrated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338–346
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date22 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2015


  • Fluorescence
  • LEDs
  • organic matter
  • microbial matter
  • potable water quality


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