Thursday, 12 September 2013

New insights into contaminated drinking water

Bacteria commonly found in drinking water creates conditions which enable other- potentially harmful -- bacteria to thrive, says research by engineers from the University of Sheffield. The research, published in the latest issue of Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, points the way to more sophisticated and targeted methods of ensuring our drinking water remains safe to drink, while still reducing the need for chemical treatments and identifying potential hazards more quickly.

The research team, from the University of Sheffield's Faculty of Engineering, studied four bacteria found in the city's drinking water to see which combinations were more likely to produce a 'biofilm'. Biofilms are layers of bacteria which form on the inner surfaces of water pipes.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the research isolated four bacteria from water taken from a domestic tap: two were widely found in drinking water everywhere, one was less common and one was unique to Sheffield. The researchers mixed the bacteria in different combinations and found that, in isolation, none of them produced a biofilm. However, when any of the bacteria were combined with one of the common forms, called Methylobacterium, they formed a biofilm within 72 hours.

For further details, see the following paper:

B. Ramalingam, R. Sekar, J. B. Boxall, C. A. Biggs. Aggregation and biofilm formation of bacteria isolated from domestic drinking water. Water Science & Technology: Water Supply, 2013; 13 (4): 1016 DOI: 10.2166/ws.2013.115

Posted by Tim Sandle