'Chemical fingerprint' will contribute to ensuring clean drinking water in the future

Published 14-08-2023

Maybe it sounds a bit dry, but in order to secure the drinking water of the future, standardisation is needed. That is the thinking behind the AQUAPLEXUS project, and the intention is to develop a tool that can contribute to prioritising efforts to ensure the quality of groundwater and drinking water. The tool is based on a method that can find virtually all substances in a single water sample.

A person is holding a bottle. The bottle is on the ground next to two other bottles. A drilling site for water pumping.
Ulla Elisabeth Bollmann is taking water samples by a drilling site by HOFOR. (HOFOR, GEUS)

In recent years, new technology has enabled researchers to find far more information about which substances are in groundwater and drinking water than has been possible up until now. Especially the so-called HRMS analyses (high-resolution mass spectrometry) are useful as they can, in principle, identify all substances in a water sample and thus give the sample a form of unique chemical fingerprint.

However, it differs, which HRMS methods laboratories use, and this makes it difficult to use the results actively. Therefore, a large number of Danish and German players have joined forces in the AQUAPLEXUS project, where the aim is to develop and standardise work processes and methods for analysis to ensure consistent results. Innovation Fund Denmark is investing DKK 13.75 million in the project.

”We see a huge market for standardised HRMS analyses in the future. Not only in Denmark, but throughout the world, where the demand for increased knowledge about substances in environmental samples is increasing. There is currently no standardised approach to this type of analysis, so the AQUAPLEXUS project developing a validated and standardised method is exactly what we need to make the method commercially available,” says Peter Bondgaard Mortensen, Head of Development at Eurofins Miljø, who participates in the project.

The AQUAPLEXUS project has three elements: a chemical analysis method, a data archive and a prioritisation tool.

  1. Chemical analysis: Development of a validated standardisation, from sampling to the result of the analysis. This is meant to ensure the quality of the results from HRMS analyses while making the method commercially available to all players in the groundwater-drinking water value chain.
  2. Data archive: Although HRMS analyses can identify virtually all substances in a sample, they cannot do so at once. It is therefore essential to be able to save results and make them available to the outside world. This is done by establishing a national data archive for storing results from the standardised analyses. The data archive will be available on existing platforms, such as the Danish Environmental Portal and GEUS’ Jupiter database.
  3. Prioritisation: HRMS analyses can provide a lot of information about which substances are found in a water sample, but not about the quantities, where they come from, or whether the substances are a problem in relation to ensuring good quality groundwater and drinking water. Methods must be developed to assess concentrations and to prioritise which substances to analyse for first.

With the AQUAPLEXUS project’s tool, it will be possible to make recommendations on how the results can be used in different parts of the groundwater-drinking water value chain.

”We are looking forward to developing a tool that can once and for all provide an overview of what is in our groundwater and drinking water – while it can also be used to assess which efforts are important in relation to ensuring the water resources of the future. It will also help secure the necessary investments. It is important that we have partners from both Denmark and abroad and cover everything from analytical chemists to authorities and water supplies,” says state geologist at GEUS, Claus Kjøller, who is Project Manager.

Project partners

The project runs from 1 May 2023 to 30 April 2027 and partners in the project are:

  • National Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS)
  • University of Copenhagen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (KU-PLEN)
  • The five largest water supplies in Denmark (HOFOR, Aarhus Vand, Vandcenter Syd, TREFOR and Novafos)
  • The Danish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Danish Regions
  • Eurofins Environment
  • The Nordic Plastic Pipe Association (NPG Denmark)
  • Denmark's Environment Portal
  • German Federal Institute of Hydrology Hydrological Institute of Germany (BfG)
  • German Environment Agency (UBA)
  • The German Water Supply in Langenau (Zweckverband Landeswasserversorgung)
Claus Kjøller
Head of Department
Ulla Elisabeth Bollmann
Senior Researcher
Malene David Jensen-Juul
Communications Officer
Press and Communication

About the project

Innovation Fund Denmark has invested 13.75 mio. DKKR in the priject.

The budget is 25.5 mio DKKR in total.

The official title is: AQUAPLEXUS.

The project will be 4 years.

You can sign up to receive news about AQUAPLEXUS by e-mail right here.