Introducing bacterial community turnover times to elucidate temporal and spatial hotspots of biological instability in a large Austrian drinking water distribution network

Lena Campostrini, Philipp Proksch, Stefan Jakwerth, Andreas Farnleitner, Alexander Kirschner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

Abstract

Ensuring biological stability in drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs) is important to reduce the risk of aesthetic, operational and hygienic impairments of the distributed water. Drinking water after treatment often changes in quality during transport due to interactions with pipe-associated biofilms, temperature increases and disinfectant residual decay leading to potential biological instability. To comprehensively assess the potential for biological instability in a large chlorinated DWDS, a tool-box of bacterial biomass and activity parameters was applied, introducing bacterial community turnover times (BaCTT) as a direct, sensitive and easy-to-interpret quantitative parameter based on the combination of 3H-leucine incorporation with bacterial biomass. Using BaCTT, hotspots and periods of bacterial growth and potential biological instability could be identified in the DWDS that is fed by water with high bacterial growth potential. A de-coupling of biomass from activity parameters was observed, suggesting that bacterial biomass parameters depict seasonally fluctuating raw water quality rather than processes related to biological stability of the finished water in the DWDS. BaCTT, on the other hand, were significantly correlated to water age, disinfectant residual, temperature and a seasonal factor, indicating a higher potential of biological instability at more distant sampling sites and later in the year. As demonstrated, BaCTT is suggested as a novel, sensitive and very useful parameter for assessing the biological instability potential. However, additional studies in other DWDSs are needed to investigate the general applicability of BaCTT depending on water source, applied treatment processes, biofilm growth potential on different pipe materials, or size, age and complexity of the DWDS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121188
Pages (from-to)121188
JournalWater Research
Volume252
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Jan 2024

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