Modeling particle transport and discoloration risk in drinking water distribution networks
Discoloration of drinking water is a worldwide phenomenon caused by accumulation and subsequent remobilization of particulate matter in drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs). It contributes a substantial fraction of customer complaints to water utilities. Accurate discoloration risk predictions could improve system operation by allowing for more effective programs on cleaning and prevention actions and field measurements, but are challenged by incomplete understanding on the origins and properties of particles and a complex and not fully understood interplay of processes in distribution networks. In this paper, we assess and describe relevant hydraulic processes that govern particle transport in turbulent pipe flow, including gravitational settling, bed-load transport, and particle entrainment into suspension. We assess which transport mechanisms are dominant for a range of bulk flow velocities, particle diameters, and particle mass densities, which includes common conditions for DWDSs in the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. Our analysis shows that the theoretically predicted particle settling velocity and threshold shear stresses for incipient particle motion are in the same range as, but more variable than, previous estimates from lab experiments, field measurements, and modeling. The presented material will be used in the future development of a numerical modeling tool to determine and predict the spatial distribution of particulate material and discoloration risk in DWDSs. Our approach is aimed at understanding specific causalities and processes, which can complement data-driven approaches.