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Environ Sci Technol. 2014;48(5):2766-75. doi: 10.1021/es405054u. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

Mechanisms affecting water quality in an intermittent piped water supply.

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Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California , Berkeley.


Drinking water distribution systems throughout the world supply water intermittently, leaving pipes without pressure between supply cycles. Understanding the multiple mechanisms that affect contamination in these intermittent water supplies (IWS) can be used to develop strategies to improve water quality. To study these effects, we tested water quality in an IWS system with infrequent and short water delivery periods in Hubli-Dharwad, India. We continuously measured pressure and physicochemical parameters and periodically collected grab samples to test for total coliform and E. coli throughout supply cycles at 11 sites. When the supply was first turned on, water with elevated turbidity and high concentrations of indicator bacteria was flushed out of pipes. At low pressures (<10 psi), elevated indicator bacteria were frequently detected even when there was a chlorine residual, suggesting persistent contamination had occurred through intrusion or backflow. At pressures between 10 and 17 psi, evidence of periodic contamination suggested that transient intrusion, backflow, release of particulates, or sloughing of biofilms from pipe walls had occurred. Few total coliform and no E. coli were detected when water was delivered with a chlorine residual and at pressures >17 psi.

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