Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


AquaSHIELD Report Summary

Project reference: 666490

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AquaSHIELD (Protecting citizens against intentional drinking water contamination with a water quality firewall)

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Critical water infrastructures and high profile (soft) targets are vulnerable to intentional drinking water contamination. Physical access to the supply system is difficult to control and traditional water quality monitoring solutions are largely inadequate to protect the water distribution process and its consumers. In light of increasing security threats there is a strong need amongst water suppliers and authorities, in Europe and globally, for a contaminant warning system that can be deployed in the distribution network and that provides real-time water quality information and event classification to support rapid decision making and protect the health of citizens.

This project addresses the need for a system to protect the water supply in urban environments. The contaminant warning system developed in this project, AquaSHIELD, will provide an affordable water quality firewall suitable for deployment at permanent monitoring sites and as a semi-permanent or mobile system, allowing deployment to selected locations for the protection of specific (soft) targets and to offer protection where it is needed most. This firewall has the following functionalities:
- Online and real-time detection of contamination events, especially chemical contaminations
- Mobile rapid screening of water samples for a set of high priority threat substances
- Online monitoring of chlorine residual as an indicator for elevated micro-biological contamination risk
- Automated rapid screening the water for the presence of a set of high priority threat substances.

AquaSHIELD, is based on an innovative and awarded optical sensor technology developed by Dutch optical sensor company Optisense. It is unique in combining 24/7 online event detection with high spec analytical capabilities for multiple substances in an affordable platform suitable for deployment in the field and for operation by non-specialist personnel.

The AquaSHIELD solution integrates two sub-components, the EventLab and MiniLab products, which can be installed individually or as a combined system in the integrated AquaSHIELD firewall solution. The two products have already been tested and validated by leading water companies in the Netherlands and Singapore, and are being redesigned and improved based on user experience. EventLab is of a generic sensor for online real-time detection of contamination events and MiniLab is a system that offers a rapid screening capability for a set of high priority threat substances for discrete samples. In the AquaSHIELD firewall the EventLab system will act as a first ring of defense, continuously scanning the water for abnormal water quality changes. When a suspect change is detected, the AquaSHIELD firewall will automatically collect a sample and analyse this using the MiniLab system, and screen the water for the presence of a selection of high priority substances. In addition the system will monitor the residual chlorine in the water to detect a compromised microbiological safety. The measurement results from all the systems in the AquaSHIELD firewall are continuously reported to a central data server, which provides the user with a web-based dashboard to view results and to manage the AquaSHIELD sensors.

AquaSHIELD will make the integrated firewall solution ready for the commercialisation. This will entail the following activities:
• Automation of the sample taking, preparation and introduction for the MiniLab platform
• Engineering of system integration, including interfacing between all components (hardware and software), development of common user interface, and integration in data server.
• Demonstration of the AquaSHIELD firewall under operational conditions at potential clients
The individual Optisense technologies that will be combined in AquaSHIELD will be brought to a ready for series production status.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The start date of the AquaSHIELD project is 01/01/2015, and the first reporting period is January – December 2015.

The AquaSHIELD integrated solution builds on two lines of product development within Optisense that have been actively pursued for several years: the EventLab and MiniLab technology platforms. Both these platforms utilise Optisense’s unique and patented lab on chip technology. EventLab is the generic sensor component, and MiniLab is the platform for detection and quantification of specific targets. AquaSHIELD will make the integrated firewall solution ready for commercialisation.

In the first reporting period the focus was placed on the redesign of the individual system components. The aim of the redesign was improving ease of production and improving ease of use. Furthermore, new features that were found to be desirable/necessary after the implementation of the first generation systems at customers have been integrated.

For the EventLab system the controller, sensor probe and maintenance software were redesigned. Furthermore, more advanced data interpretation and event detection algorithms were deployed in the central data server and the graphical user interface for accessing the results online was revised. All these improvements together constitute a new second generation EventLab product, which was commercially launched in November 2015 (see associated images - EventLab2). This system is now ready for integration into the AquaSHIELD firewall.

For the MiniLab system, both the base unit and the exchangeable measurement cartridge have been redesigned. The system has been redesigned to allow simultaneous analysis of eight targets. The targets of interest can be selected by loading 8 individual test cartridges, with each test cartridge containing the interface coating required for a specific analysis. The redesigned MiniLab will be integrated into the AquaSHIELD firewall.

The specific tests to be performed with MiniLab and the AquaSHIELD firewall will make use of receptor molecules with a high affinity for the target analytes. Receptor molecules for the first analytes have been procured and the interface chemistry needed to use these receptors with the monitoring platform has been developed. Furthermore, the measurement protocol for the first anlyte has been developed and measurement results have been verified and validated.

A feasibility into the possibility to develop a sensor coating that allows measurement of residual chlorine in drinking water has been started. This feasibility is still ongoing.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Water distribution networks are vulnerable to intentional contamination attacks. Therefore, a need exists amongst drinking water suppliers for a system that can detect contamination of water with highly toxic substances. The requirement for such a system has been identified in various European technology platforms and preceding security research projects. Currently, no single solution offers this capability. All approaches depend on highly specialised personnel and laboratory facilities, and will produce confirmation of an event and its nature after hours or days. In case of a contamination with a dangerous contaminant, a response is required within minutes to protect public health and minimise the damage. AquaSHIELD will fill this need through its combination of continuous real time event detection with an on-site capability of rapid screening of water for high priority substances.

AquaSHIELD will be a new firewall concept for water security applications. This firewall will combine the following functionalities in one system:
1. Online and real-time detection of any type of water quality incident which changes the chemical composition of drinking water (either individual substances or mixtures/contaminants in a carrier matrix).
2. Measurement of residual chlorine concentrations as an indicator parameter for microbiological contamination or for conditions of elevated risk for microbiological contamination.
3. Automated rapid screening of a water sample for a selected set of high priority contaminants. This analysis is either triggered by components 1 or 2, or can be triggered manually.
4. A mobile rapid response tool for screening of water samples for a selected set of high priority substances.

Unique selling points of AquaSHIELD are:
- Online and real-time detection of any type of chemical water quality incident
- On-site, automated rapid screening and mobile rapid screening of a water sample for a selected set of high priority contaminants (bringing the lab to the field)
- Possibility to install in the distribution network due to low maintenance and ease of use (no need for expert personnel or advanced infrastructure)

The AquaSHIELD solution is aimed at protecting drinking water distribution infrastructures (especially in urban areas) as well as the drinking water distribution to urban soft targets. The main customers for such equipment are drinking water companies in Europe, USA and Asia Pacific, especially in countries with an increased risk level. Besides the drinking water companies, local authorities and the owners and operators of critical assets (hospitals, hotels, malls, schools, military bases, etc.) and event organizers (IOC, UEFA, and FIFA) are potential customers.

Related information

Record Number: 186565 / Last updated on: 2016-07-13