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    Water biostability is desired within drinking water distribution systems (DWDSs) to limit microbiologically-related operational, aesthetic and, eventually, health-related issues. However, variations in microbiological quality can take place both spatially along DWDS pipelines and temporally at single locations due to biofilm detachment, water quality seasonality and other processes. In this study, long- and short-term trends of bacterial concentration and community structure were investigated in a secondary branch of an unchlorinated DWDS for several months using high-frequency flow cytometry (FCM) and traditional laboratory monitoring campaigns. Long-term trends of bacterial concentrations and community structures were likely caused by changes in the water physical-chemical quality (i.e. pH and conductivity). Short-term daily pattern, instead, resulted in significant variations between the bacterial concentrations and community structures at different hours, likely due to biofilm detachment and loose deposits resuspension related to changes in the local water flow. These patterns, however, showed broad variations and did not persist during the entire monitoring campaign presumably due to the stochasticity of local instantaneous demand and seasonal changes in water consumption. During periods without sensible long-term trends, the sampling hours explain a comparable or larger fraction of the bacterial community diversity compared to dates. The variations observed with FCM were poorly or not detected by traditional laboratory analyses, as the correlation between the two were rather weak, highlighting the limited information provided by traditional approaches. On the other hand, FCM data correlated with water pH and conductivity, underlining the relation between physical-chemical and microbiological water quality. Such results suggest that the advanced control of the physical-chemical water quality could minimize the microbiological water quality variations. Moreover, monitoring campaign planning should take into account the sampling time to reduce the noise caused by daily fluctuations and/or assess the overall quality variations. Finally, as monitoring costs are one of the barriers which prevent a more widespread use of FCM, a monitoring scheme optimization strategy was developed. Such strategy employs the data from an initial high-frequency sampling period to select the sampling hours which maximize the observed variations of bacterial concentration and community composition. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Marco Gabrielli, Andrea Turolla, Manuela Antonelli. Bacterial dynamics in drinking water distribution systems and flow cytometry monitoring scheme optimization. Journal of environmental management. 2021 May 15;286:112151

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    PMID: 33609931

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