The absence of indicator organisms in drinking water does not provide sufficient guarantee for microbial safety. Therefore the water utilities are implementing water safety plans (WSP) to safeguard drinking water quality. Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) can be used to provide objective quantitative input for the WSP. This study presents several applications of treatment modelling in QMRA to answer the risk managers questions raised in the WSP. QMRA can estimate how safe the water is, how much the safety varies and how certain the estimate of safety is. This can be used in the WSP system assessment to determine whether treatment is meeting health-based targets with the required level of certainty. Quantitative data analysis showed that short events of only 8 hours per year can dominate the yearly average health risk for the consumer. QMRA also helps the design of physical and microbial monitoring. The study showed that the required monitoring frequency increases with increasing treatment efficacy. Daily monitoring can be sufficient to verify a treatment process achieving 2 log reduction of pathogens, but a process achieving 4 log reduction needs to be monitored every 15 minutes. Similarly, QMRA helps to prepare adequate corrective actions by determining the acceptable ‘down time’ of a process. For example, for a process achieving 2.5 log reduction a down time of maximum 6 hours per year is acceptable. These applications illustrate how QMRA can contribute to efficient and effective management of microbial drinking water safety.
Keywords: QMRA, water safety plans