Natural organic matter (NOM) in South African waters: NOM characterisation using combined assessment techniques
In order to remove natural organic matter (NOM) from water in a water treatment train, the composition of the NOM in the source water must be taken into account, especially as it may not necessarily be uniform since the composition is dependent on the local environment. The main thrust of this study was to ascertain whether a cocktail of characterisation protocols could help to determine the nature, composition and character of NOM in South African waters. The characterisation of South African water sources was done by sampling 8 different water treatment plants located within the 5 major source water types in South Africa. The NOM composition of all of the samples was first studied by applying conventional techniques (UV, DOC, SUVA and bulk water parameters). NOM characterisation was then further conducted using advanced techniques (BDOC, PRAM and FEEM), which were aimed at developing rapid assessment protocols. The FEEM and UV results revealed that the samples consisted mainly of humic substances with a high UV-254 absorbance, while some samples had marine humic substances and non-humic substances. The samplefs DOC results were within the range of 3.5 to 22.6 mgE..1 C, which was indicative of the extent of variation of NOM quantities in the regions where samples were obtained. The BDOC fraction of the NOM ranged between 12 and 66%, depending on the geographical location of the sampling site. A modified PRAM was utilised to characterise the changes in NOM polarity in the water treatment process. PRAM results also indicated that the NOM samples were mostly hydrophobic. The composition and character of the NOM was found to vary from one water treatment plant to another. Combining conventional and advanced techniques could be a powerful tool for NOM characterisation and for extracting detailed information on NOM character, which should inform its treatability.