Send to

Choose Destination
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Jun 30;82(14):4155-4168. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00109-16. Print 2016 Jul 15.

Dynamics of Biofilm Regrowth in Drinking Water Distribution Systems.

Author information

Pennine Water Group, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Pennine Water Group, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom.


The majority of biomass within water distribution systems is in the form of attached biofilm. This is known to be central to drinking water quality degradation following treatment, yet little understanding of the dynamics of these highly heterogeneous communities exists. This paper presents original information on such dynamics, with findings demonstrating patterns of material accumulation, seasonality, and influential factors. Rigorous flushing operations repeated over a 1-year period on an operational chlorinated system in the United Kingdom are presented here. Intensive monitoring and sampling were undertaken, including time-series turbidity and detailed microbial analysis using 16S rRNA Illumina MiSeq sequencing. The results show that bacterial dynamics were influenced by differences in the supplied water and by the material remaining attached to the pipe wall following flushing. Turbidity, metals, and phosphate were the main factors correlated with the distribution of bacteria in the samples. Coupled with the lack of inhibition of biofilm development due to residual chlorine, this suggests that limiting inorganic nutrients, rather than organic carbon, might be a viable component in treatment strategies to manage biofilms. The research also showed that repeat flushing exerted beneficial selective pressure, giving another reason for flushing being a viable advantageous biofilm management option. This work advances our understanding of microbiological processes in drinking water distribution systems and helps inform strategies to optimize asset performance.


This research provides novel information regarding the dynamics of biofilm formation in real drinking water distribution systems made of different materials. This new knowledge on microbiological process in water supply systems can be used to optimize the performance of the distribution network and to guarantee safe and good-quality drinking water to consumers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center