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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 Aug;63(8):3242-5.

Phosphorus and bacterial growth in drinking water.

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Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology, National Public Health Institute, Kuopio, Finland.


The availability of organic carbon is considered the key factor to regulate microbial regrowth in drinking water network. However, boreal regions (northern Europe, Russia, and North America) contain a large amount of organic carbon in forests and peatlands. Therefore, natural waters (lakes, rivers, and groundwater) in the northern hemisphere generally have a high content of organic carbon. We found that microbial growth in drinking water in Finland is highly regulated not only by organic carbon but also by the availability of phosphorus. Microbial growth increased up to a phosphate concentration of 10 micrograms of PO4-P liter-1. Inorganic elements other than phosphorus did not affect microbial growth in drinking water. This observation offers novel possibilities to restrict microbial growth in water distribution systems by developing technologies to remove phosphorus efficiently from drinking water.

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