Microbial community dynamics of an urban drinking water distribution system subjected to phases of chloramination and chlorination treatments

Chiachi Hwang, Fangqiong Ling, Gary L. Andersen, Mark W. LeChevallier, Wen Tso Liu

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Water utilities in parts of the U.S. control microbial regrowth in drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) by alternating postdisinfection methods between chlorination and chloramination. To examine how this strategy influences drinking water microbial communities, an urban DWDS (population=40,000) with groundwater as the source water was studied for approximately 2 years. Water samples were collected at five locations in the network at different seasons and analyzed for their chemical and physical characteristics and for their microbial community composition and structure by examining the 16S rRNA gene via terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism and DNA pyrosequencing technology. Nonmetric multidimension scaling and canonical correspondence analysis of microbial community profiles could explain>57% of the variation. Clustering of samples based on disinfection types (free chlorine versus combined chlorine) and sampling time was observed to correlate to the shifts in microbial communities. Sampling location and water age (<21.2 h) had no apparent effects on the microbial compositions of samples from most time points. Microbial community analysis revealed that among major core populations, Cyanobacteria, Methylobacteriaceae, Sphingomonadaceae, and Xanthomonadaceae were more abundant in chlorinated water, and Methylophilaceae, Methylococcaceae, and Pseudomonadaceae were more abundant in chloraminated water. No correlation was observed with minor populations that were detected frequently (<0.1% of total pyrosequences), which were likely present in source water and survived through the treatment process. Transient microbial populations including Flavobacteriaceae and Clostridiaceae were also observed. Overall, reversible shifts in microbial communities were especially pronounced with chloramination, suggesting stronger selection of microbial populations from chloramines than chlorine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7856-7865
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2012


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