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Water Treatment for Large Laboratories: What are my Options?

Sam Bisby
by Sam Bisby
17 November 2023
5 minutes read

    Large laboratories that require a consistent supply of high-purity water have a wide array of water treatment solutions and configurations available to them. As such, specification can be a complex and difficult task. Here, Sam Bisby, Area Sales Manager, helps guide you through the options.

    No two laboratory environments are the same. In some large laboratory buildings, you may find many chemists utilising the same single scientific process; in another, a smaller group of individuals could be using a wide range of processes, all under one roof. Some of these processes may require a constant, high quantity of Ultrapure or Type I water, while others may only need a small quantity of Type III water just once per day.

    As such there is no single ‘fits-all’ solution. It will depend on a range of factors, including the scale and consistency of usage, the quality of water required and whether that differs throughout a building. The building’s size and age can also have an impact as well as any environmental impact factors.

    Thankfully, at Veolia Water Technologies UK, we have an extensive range of water treatment solutions ideal for laboratory buildings that can be used to feed everything from glass washers and autoclaves to environmental chambers and catalytic reactors.

    So, what are the options?

    Centralised systems

    A fully centralised system relies on a single external deionised water (usually Type 2) unit supplying an entire building via a ring main. Polishers can be fitted at point of use if higher quality water such as ultrapure grade is required for certain laboratories or applications. Ultrapure applications include stem cell research, cell culture, DNA and RNA sequencing, IVF, organic and inorganic synthesis, NMR and separation techniques such as HPLC and GC.

    A potential risk of a centralised system (if not duplexed) is the lack of redundancy it provides. This is not ideal if some, or all, of the laboratories it supplies are fully reliant on a consistent supply of deionised water for their laboratory work flows. Furthermore, a ring main can be difficult to install in an existing building (depending on ring main size),  although it may well be possible with some minor works. 

    However, a fully centralised system can provide a cost-effective solution for a large, newly built laboratory that has a water requirement across many labs. In this case, bringing a supplier on board early so that the water treatment unit and ring main can be correctly factored into the development of the building as it is built is crucial.

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    Where a single centralised system is appropriate we would recommend our CENTRA™ R 200 deionisation unit. These systems utilise reverse osmosis, deionisation, UV and ultrafiltration technology to deliver up to 200 litres per hour of Type II water. It also includes a 350-litre internal reservoir and an inverter-driven pump capable of market-leading flow rates of up to 30 L/min. This ensures the CENTRA™ R 200 can always supply the required quantity of pure water, even if there are peaks and troughs in demand throughout a large laboratory setting. 

    Duplex systems

    Duplex systems – that include two centralised production systems running on isolated ring mains as opposed to just one – provide a far higher level of redundancy. This means that the laboratory has a backup water supply in the event that one of the centralised production systems fails or needs to undergo maintenance. Duplex systems are commonly arranged so that they each supply one floor or alternatively one half of a building. As a result, if one unit is offline, half of the building is still receiving deionised water from the other unit, which all the laboratories can then utilise.

    A duplex system with ring main can also be difficult to retrofit into an older building; but for a new build where the ring main can be designed in, a duplex system provides a cost-effective solution with that crucial added level of redundancy.

    For large buildings where the laboratory water is critical for their processes, we would recommend duplexed CENTRA™ units. However, the length of ring main must be considered and may necessitate additional centralised units to ensure pressure is maintained throughout very large buildings.

    Mini Centralised systems

    Mini centralised systems utilise small, centralised units - like the CENTRA™ R60 or R120 - that can be installed within each individual laboratory, potentially under a bench or in a cupboard. These smaller units can again be paired with a worktop polisher (or several) to produce higher-quality water depending on the application. For example, an analytical chemist working on chromatography may have Chorus 1 Analytical polisher on their worktop, while another individual studying biology cell culture might opt for the Chorus 1 Life Science. As such, these units are ideal for multidisciplinary laboratories that require a number of different water types to ensure each application is sufficiently catered for. Discover the Chorus range here.

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    This configuration also provides a higher level of redundancy as each laboratory has its own independent supply of deionised water. For older laboratory buildings, this setup is far easier to install as it does not require a ring main to be installed throughout the building. The only requirement is that the necessary space is found within each laboratory to house the unit.

    Point of use (POU) benchtop systems

    Finally, it is also possible to have fully benchtop units that purify at point of use throughout a laboratory building. In this case, polishers would not be required as Tap-to-Type 1 or Tap-to-Type 2 units are available. Again, this is a useful set-up for older buildings as minimal work is required to install, with the units connecting straight into the mains water supply, providing that benchtop space is available. A large amount of redundancy is another pro to this configuration, with many backup units available if one system were to go down.

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    However, this setup has the potential to be less cost-effective than a single or duplex centralised system if many points of use are required. For example, twenty points of use would mean twenty bench-top systems. Not only is there the initial cost to consider but also the amount of consumables that would need to be maintained and replaced, amounting to cost as well as an environmental factor. Centralised systems with polishers, on the other hand, require fewer consumables and are far easier to manage and maintain.


    Specifying a new water treatment solution for a large laboratory can be a daunting task with a number of issues and possible configurations to consider. However, with our team of water treatment experts, we can help you to create a usage profile on expected water use and from that recommend the most suitable, robust, or even bespoke solution for your laboratory’s needs. Whatever your requirement, we will ensure you have the optimum supply and quality of deionised water, plus the required redundancy and ability to scale the system up or down to suit your business both now and in the future.

    For more information on our lab-based water treatment solutions, please click here.


    Sam Bisby

    Author | Sam Bisby

    Sam is an experienced Area Sales Manager with a background in delivering water solutions to laboratories across the scientific community. Prior to this role, he worked as a Research and Development Analyst, conducting analytical testing in compliance with GMP standards. Sam has a strong educational background, with a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry with specialist knowledge in Two-Dimensional Mass Spectrometry.

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