Impact of Distribution and Network Flushing on the Drinking Water Microbiome

Joline El-Chakhtoura, Pascal E. Saikaly, Mark C. M. van Loosdrecht, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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We sampled the tap water of seven unique, full-scale drinking water distribution systems at different locations as well as the corresponding treatment plant effluents to evaluate the impact of distribution and the potential presence of a core drinking water microbiome. The water was also sampled during network flushing to examine its effect on the microbial ecology. While a core microbiome dominated by Gammaproteobacteria was found using 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing, an increase in biomass was detected in the networks, especially during flushing. Water age did not significantly impact the microbiology. Irrespective of differences in treatment plants, tap water bacterial communities in the distinct networks converged and highly resembled the flushed water communities. Piping biofilm and sediment communities therefore largely determine the final tap water microbial quality, attenuating the impact of water source and treatment strategy and highlighting the fundamental role of local physicochemical conditions and microbial processes within infrastructure micro-niches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2205
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing
  • biofilm
  • core microbiome
  • drinking water distribution system
  • microbial ecology
  • network flushing
  • residence time
  • water quality


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