Monitoring and understanding water quality changes within the distribution system is essential to enable effective management to provide good quality water at the customer tap. A recent 2-year study utilised four parallel pilot distribution systems (PDS) and a range of simple tools to assess the impact improving treatment had on the water quality within the distribution system. Particle counting was more effective than turbidity to assess the impact of increasing treatment on sediment load entering the PDS while UV254 was as informative as dissolved organic carbon to assess organic load but has the additional potential benefit of on-line measurement. However, variability in water quality entering the PDS was often greater than measurable changes occurring within the PDS. It was critical to compare water quality entering the distribution system with the water quality at a defined point within the distribution system (at known hydraulic detention time) to enable effective assessment of water quality changes. Therefore, effective use of these simple tools requires monitoring of both inlet and distribution system locations, together with long term trending to monitor and compare changes within the system.