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Aims: To survey biofilm accumulation within domestic copper plumbing pipes in South Australian drinking water distribution systems and examine its role in copper solvation (cuprosolvency).

Methods and Results: Cold water copper pipes were sampled from two different plumbing systems receiving filtered and unfiltered potable water respectively. Biomass was quantified by total organic carbon measurements and viable cell counts and microbial activity by respirometry. Biofilm accumulation was related to water chemistry within the systems, particularly nutrients, alkalinity and conductivity, as well as water turbulence. Laboratory coupon experiments were used to determine the effect of extracted biofilm on copper solvation. Biofilms were shown to be capable of both increasing and decreasing aqueous copper concentrations in comparison to sterile controls.

Conclusions: The results suggest that water quality may influence the accumulation of biofilms in copper plumbing systems, as well as potential cuprosolvency activity.

Significance and Impact of the Study: The presence of biofilms in copper plumbing systems and their ability to influence aqueous copper concentrations has implications for both public health and the management of distribution systems.