Bacterial community dynamics during the early stages of biofilm formation in a chlorinated experimental drinking water distribution system: implications for drinking water discolouration




To characterize bacterial communities during the early stages of biofilm formation and their role in water discolouration in a fully representative, chlorinated, experimental drinking water distribution systems (DWDS).

Methods and Results

Biofilm development was monitored in an experimental DWDS over 28 days; subsequently the system was disturbed by raising hydraulic conditions to simulate pipe burst, cleaning or other system conditions. Biofilm cell cover was monitored by fluorescent microscopy and a fingerprinting technique used to assess changes in bacterial community. Selected samples were analysed by cloning and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Fingerprinting analysis revealed significant changes in the bacterial community structure over time (P < 0·05). Cell coverage increased over time accompanied by an increase in bacterial richness and diversity.


Shifts in the bacterial community structure were observed along with an increase in cell coverage, bacterial richness and diversity. Species related to Pseudomonas spp. and Janthinobacterium spp. dominated the process of initial attachment. Based on fingerprinting results, the hydraulic regimes did not affect the bacteriological composition of biofilms, but they did influence their mechanical stability.

Significance and Importance of the Study

This study gives a better insight into the early stages of biofilm formation in DWDS and will contribute to the improvement of management strategies to control the formation of biofilms and the risk of discolouration.