Drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) are designed to remove physical, chemical, and biological contaminants. However, until recently, the role of DWTPs in minimizing the cycling of antibiotic resistance determinants has got limited attention. In particular, the risk of selecting antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) is largely overlooked in chlorine-free DWTPs where biological processes are applied. Here, we combined high-throughput quantitative PCR and metagenomics to analyze the abundance and dynamics of microbial communities, antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) across the treatment trains of two chlorine-free DWTPs involving dune-based and reservoir-based systems. The microbial diversity of the water increased after all biological unit operations, namely rapid and slow sand filtration (SSF), and granular activated carbon filtration. Both DWTPs reduced the concentration of ARGs and MGEs in the water by circa 2.5 log gene copies mL−1, despite their relative increase in the disinfection sub-units (SSF in dune-based and UV treatment in reservoir-based DWTPs). The total microbial concentration was also reduced (2.5 log units), and none of the DWTPs enriched for bacteria containing genes linked to antibiotic resistance. Our findings highlight the effectiveness of chlorine-free DWTPs in supplying safe drinking water while reducing the concentration of antibiotic resistance determinants. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that monitors the presence and dynamics of antibiotic resistance determinants in chlorine-free DWTPs.
- Drinking water treatment plants
- Sand filtration