Risk-based cost-benefit analysis for evaluating microbial risk mitigation in a drinking water system
Journal article, 2018
Waterborne outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases can cause large costs to society. Risk management needs to be holistic and transparent in order to reduce these risks in an effective manner. Microbial risk mitigation measures in a drinking water system were investigated using a novel approach combining probabilistic risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis. Lake Vomb in Sweden was used to exemplify and illustrate the risk-based decision model. Four mitigation alternatives were compared, where the first three alternatives, A1-A3, represented connecting 25, 50 and 75%, respectively, of on-site wastewater treatment systems in the catchment to the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The fourth alternative, A4, represented installing a UV-disinfection unit in the drinking water treatment plant. Quantitative microbial risk assessment was used to estimate the positive health effects in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs), resulting from the four mitigation alternatives. The health benefits were monetised using a unit cost per QALY. For each mitigation alternative, the net present value of health and environmental benefits and investment, maintenance and running costs was calculated. The results showed that only A4 can reduce the risk (probability of infection) below the World Health Organization guidelines of 10−4 infections per person per year (looking at the 95th percentile). Furthermore, all alternatives resulted in a negative net present value. However, the net present value would be positive (looking at the 50th percentile using a 1% discount rate) if non-monetised benefits (e.g. increased property value divided evenly over the studied time horizon and reduced microbial risks posed to animals), estimated at 800–1200 SEK (€100–150) per connected on-site wastewater treatment system per year, were included. This risk-based decision model creates a robust and transparent decision support tool. It is flexible enough to be tailored and applied to local settings of drinking water systems. The model provides a clear and holistic structure for decisions related to microbial risk mitigation. To improve the decision model, we suggest to further develop the valuation and monetisation of health effects and to refine the propagation of uncertainties and variabilities between the included methods.
Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA)
Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
Water quality modelling
Quality adjusted life year (QALY)