Assessment of the chlorine demand and disinfection byproduct formation potential of surface waters via satellite remote sensing

Yiling Chen, William A. Arnold, Claire G. Griffin, Leif G. Olmanson, Patrick L. Brezonik, Raymond M. Hozalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The ability of satellites to assess surface water quality indicators such as colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) suggests that remote sensing could be a useful tool for evaluating water treatability metrics in considering potential drinking water supplies. To explore this possibility, 24 surface water samples were collected throughout Minnesota, USA with wide ranging values of CDOM (a440; 0.41–27.9 m-1), dissolved organic carbon (DOC; 5.5–47.6 mg/L) and specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254; 1.3–5.1 L/mg-M). Laboratory experiments were performed to quantify chlorine demand and the formation of two classes of halogenated disinfection byproducts (DBPs), trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), using the uniform formation conditions (UFC) test. Chlorine demand and THMUFC were linearly correlated with CDOM (R2 = 0.97 and 0.91, respectively), indicating that CDOM is a useful predictor of these parameters. On the other hand, data comparing di- and tri-HAAUFC with CDOM were better fit by a logarithmic relationship (R2 = 0.73 and 0.87, respectively), while mono-HAAUFC was linearly correlated with CDOM (R2 = 0.46) but only for low-to moderately-colored waters (a440 ≤ 11 m−1). The correlations relating chlorine demand and DBPUFC values with CDOM were coupled with satellite CDOM assessments to estimate chlorine demand and DBPUFC values for all surface waters larger than 0.05 km2 in the state of Minnesota, USA. The resulting maps suggest that only 21.8% of Minnesota lakes would meet both the THM and HAA maximum contaminant levels, but only when pre-disinfection treatment removes 75% of DBP precursors. There are limitations to determining CDOM using satellites for high color surface waters (a440 > 11 m−1), however, leading to underpredicted values for CDOM, chlorine demand, and DBPUFC. Overall, the results demonstrate the potential benefits of satellite remote sensing for assessing potential drinking water sources and water treatability metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115001
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the State of Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund ( ENRTF ) and National Science Foundation (CBET- 1510332 ). The authors thank Noah Germolus for assistance with bromide concentration measurements.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Chlorine demand
  • Colored dissolved organic matter
  • Disinfection byproducts
  • Drinking water source
  • Satellite remote sensing
  • Surface water quality


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