Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Methodological approaches for studying the microbial ecology of drinking water distribution systems

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Catherine BiggsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The study of the microbial ecology of drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) has traditionally been based on culturing organisms from bulk water samples. The development and application of molecular methods has supplied new tools for examining the microbial diversity and activity of environmental samples, yielding new insights into the microbial community and its diversity within these engineered ecosystems. In this review, the currently available methods and emerging approaches for characterising microbial communities, including both planktonic and biofilm ways of life, are critically evaluated. The study of biofilms is considered particularly important as it plays a critical role in the processes and interactions occurring at the pipe wall and bulk water interface. The advantages, limitations and usefulness of methods that can be used to detect and assess microbial abundance, community composition and function are discussed in a DWDS context. This review will assist hydraulic engineers and microbial ecologists in choosing the most appropriate tools to assess drinking water microbiology and related aspects.BiofilmsDrinking water distribution systemsMethodological approachesMicrobial diversityMicrobial function

Publication metadata

Author(s): Douterelo I, Deines P, Boxall JB, Sekar R, Fish KE, Biggs CA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Research

Year: 2014

Volume: 65

Pages: 134-156

Print publication date: 15/11/2014

Online publication date: 18/07/2014

Acceptance date: 04/07/2014

Date deposited: 19/07/2019

ISSN (print): 0043-1354

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2448

Publisher: IWA Publishing


DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.07.008


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name