Bacterial Community Structure in the Drinking Water Microbiome Is Governed by Filtration Processes
The bacterial community structure of a drinking water microbiome was characterized over three seasons using 16S rRNA gene based pyrosequencing of samples obtained from source water (a mix of a groundwater and a surface water), different points in a drinking water plant operated to treat this source water, and in the associated drinking water distribution system. Even though the source water was shown to seed the drinking water microbiome, treatment process operations limit the source water’s influence on the distribution system bacterial community. Rather, in this plant, filtration by dual media rapid sand filters played a primary role in shaping the distribution system bacterial community over seasonal time scales as the filters harbored a stable bacterial community that seeded the water treatment processes past filtration. Bacterial taxa that colonized the filter and sloughed off in the filter effluent were able to persist in the distribution system despite disinfection of finished water by chloramination and filter backwashing with chloraminated backwash water. Thus, filter colonization presents a possible ecological survival strategy for bacterial communities in drinking water systems, which presents an opportunity to control the drinking water microbiome by manipulating the filter microbial community. Grouping bacterial taxa based on their association with the filter helped to elucidate relationships between the abundance of bacterial groups and water quality parameters and showed that pH was the strongest regulator of the bacterial community in the sampled drinking water system.