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Open AccessArticle

A Practical Protocol for the Experimental Design of Comparative Studies on Water Treatment

1
Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium
2
Department of Mathematical Modelling, Statistics and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium
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National Institute for Applied Statistics Research Australia, University of Wollongong, Wollongong 2522, NSW, Australia
4
Interuniversity Institute for Biostatistics and statistical Bioinformatics, Hasselt University, Hasselt 3500, Belgium
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(1), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11010162
Received: 16 December 2018 / Revised: 14 January 2019 / Accepted: 15 January 2019 / Published: 17 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Water and Wastewater Treatment)
The design and execution of effective and informative experiments in comparative studies on water treatment is challenging due to their complexity and multidisciplinarity. Often, environmental engineers and researchers carefully set up their experiments based on literature information, available equipment and time, analytical methods and experimental operations. However, because of time constraints but mainly missing insight, they overlook the value of preliminary experiments, as well as statistical and modeling techniques in experimental design. In this paper, the crucial roles of these overlooked techniques are highlighted in a practical protocol with a focus on comparative studies on water treatment optimization. By integrating a detailed experimental design, lab experiment execution, and advanced data analysis, more relevant conclusions and recommendations are likely to be delivered, hence, we can maximize the outputs of these precious and numerous experiments. The protocol underlines the crucial role of three key steps, including preliminary study, predictive modeling, and statistical analysis, which are strongly recommended to avoid suboptimal designs and even the failure of experiments, leading to wasted resources and disappointing results. The applicability and relevance of this protocol is demonstrated in a case study comparing the performance of conventional activated sludge and waste stabilization ponds in a shock load scenario. From that, it is advised that in the experimental design, the aim is to make best possible use of the statistical and modeling tools but not lose sight of a scientific understanding of the water treatment processes and practical feasibility. View Full-Text
Keywords: experimental design; comparative studies; wastewater treatment; preliminary studies; virtual experiments; power analysis experimental design; comparative studies; wastewater treatment; preliminary studies; virtual experiments; power analysis
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ho, L.; Thas, O.; Van Echelpoel, W.; Goethals, P. A Practical Protocol for the Experimental Design of Comparative Studies on Water Treatment. Water 2019, 11, 162.

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