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Microbiological tap water profile of a medium-sized building and effect of water stagnation

Lipphaus, Patrick, Hammes, Frederik, Kötzsch, Stefan, Green, James, Gillespie, Simon, Nocker, Andreas
Environmental technology 2014 v.35 no.5 pp. 620-628
cold, compliance, environmental technology, flow cytometry, households, hygiene, microbiological quality, tap water, water distribution, water quality
Whereas microbiological quality of drinking water in water distribution systems is routinely monitored for reasons of legal compliance, microbial numbers in tap water are grossly understudied. Motivated by gross differences in water from private households, we applied in this study flow cytometry as a rapid analytical method to quantify microbial concentrations in water sampled at diverse taps in a medium size research building receiving chlorinated water. Taps differed considerably in frequency of usage and were located in laboratories, bathrooms, and a coffee kitchen. Substantial differences were observed between taps with concentrations (per mL) in the range from 6.29×10 ³ to 7.74×10 ⁵ for total cells and from 1.66×10 ³ to 4.31×10 ⁵ for intact cells. The percentage of intact cells varied between 7% and 96%. Water from taps with very infrequent use showed the highest bacterial numbers and the highest proportions of intact cells. Stagnation tended to increase microbial numbers in water from those taps which were otherwise frequently used. Microbial numbers in other taps that were rarely opened were not affected by stagnation as their water is probably mostly stagnant. For cold water taps, microbial numbers and the percentage of intact cells tended to decline with flushing with the greatest decline for taps used least frequently whereas microbial concentrations in water from hot water taps tended to be somewhat more stable. We conclude that microbiological water quality is mainly determined by building-specific parameters. Tap water profiling can provide valuable insight into plumbing system hygiene and maintenance.