Influence of hydraulic regimes on bacterial community structure and composition in an experimental drinking water distribution system

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Douterelo, I. ; Sharpe, R.L. ; Boxall, J.B. (2011)
  • Publisher: Elsevier

Microbial biofilms formed on the inner-pipe surfaces of drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) can alter drinking water quality, particularly if they are mechanically detached from the pipe wall to the bulk water, such as due to changes in hydraulic conditions. Results are presented here from applying 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene to investigate the influence of different hydrological regimes on bacterial community structure and to study the potential mobilisation of material from the pipe walls to the network using a full scale, temperature-controlled experimental pipeline facility accurately representative of live DWDS.\ud \ud Analysis of pyrosequencing and water physico-chemical data showed that habitat type (water vs. biofilm) and hydraulic conditions influenced bacterial community structure and composition in our experimental DWDS. Bacterial community composition clearly differed between biofilms and bulk water samples. Gammaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria were the most abundant phyla in biofilms while Alphaproteobacteria was predominant in bulk water samples. This suggests that bacteria inhabiting biofilms, predominantly species belonging to genera Pseudomonas, Zooglea and Janthinobacterium, have an enhanced ability to express extracellular polymeric substances to adhere to surfaces and to favour co-aggregation between cells than those found in the bulk water. Highest species richness and diversity were detected in 28 days old biofilms with this being accentuated at highly varied flow conditions. Flushing altered the pipe-wall bacterial community structure but did not completely remove bacteria from the pipe walls, particularly under highly varied flow conditions, suggesting that under these conditions more compact biofilms were generated.\ud \ud This research brings new knowledge regarding the influence of different hydraulic regimes on the composition and structure of bacterial communities within DWDS and the implication that this might have on drinking water quality.
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