Biofilm structures (EPS and bacterial communities) in drinking water distribution systems are conditioned by hydraulics and influence discolouration

Fish, K, Osborn, A and Boxall, J 2017, 'Biofilm structures (EPS and bacterial communities) in drinking water distribution systems are conditioned by hydraulics and influence discolouration', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 593594, pp. 571-580.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Biofilm structures (EPS and bacterial communities) in drinking water distribution systems are conditioned by hydraulics and influence discolouration
Author(s) Fish, K
Osborn, A
Boxall, J
Year 2017
Journal name Science of the Total Environment
Volume number 593594
Start page 571
End page 580
Total pages 10
Publisher Elsevier
Abstract High-quality drinking water from treatment works is degraded during transport to customer taps through the Drinking Water Distribution System (DWDS). Interactions occurring at the pipe wall-water interface are central to this degradation and are often dominated by complex microbial biofilms that are not well understood. This study uses novel application of confocal microscopy techniques to quantify the composition of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and cells of DWDS biofilms together with concurrent evaluation of the bacterial community. An internationally unique, full-scale, experimental DWDS facility was used to investigate the impact of three different hydraulic patterns upon biofilms and subsequently assess their response to increases in shear stress, linking biofilms to water quality impacts such as discolouration. Greater flow variation during growth was associated with increased cell quantity but was inversely related to EPS-to-cell volume ratios and bacterial diversity. Discolouration was caused and EPS was mobilised during flushing of all conditions. Ultimately, biofilms developed under low-varied flow conditions had lowest amounts of biomass, the greatest EPS volumes per cell and the lowest discolouration response. This research shows that the interactions between hydraulics and biofilm physical and community structures are complex but critical to managing biofilms within ageing DWDS infrastructure to limit water quality degradation and protect public health.
Subject Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified
Microbial Ecology
Water Quality Engineering
Keyword(s) Biofilms
Drinking water distribution systems
Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)
Hydraulic patterns
Terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP)
Water quality
DOI - identifier 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.03.176
Copyright notice © 2017 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
ISSN 0048-9697
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