Biofilm growth within a water distribution system could lead to operational problems such as pipe corrosion, water quality deterioration and other undesirable impacts in water distribution systems. With the high ambient temperatures experienced in Singapore, the operating environment in water distribution systems is expected to be more conducive to biofilm development. We have recently conducted a survey on biofilms potentially present in a local water distribution system.
The survey results indicated that residual chlorine (±standard deviation) decreased from 1.49±0.61 mg/l (water plant outlets) to 0.82±0.21 mg/l (block pipes) or 0.18±0.06 mg/l (unit pipes), respectively. Consumed chlorine, instead of residual chlorine, was found to be correlated with biofilm bacterial population. Assimilable organic carbon (AOC) level was 160±66 μg acetate C/l, and AOC:PO4-P:NO3-N was about 8:13:1. Carbon source seemed to be the limiting nutrient for bacterial growth. The concentration of iron increased from <0.04 mg/l (water plant outlets) to 0.22±0.10 mg/l (all sites). All samples showed negative results in a coliform test. The average heterotrophic plate count (HPC) for the suspended bacteria was 20 colony-forming units (c.f.u.)/ml (2 days, 35 °C) or 290 c.f.u./ml (8 days, 35 °C). The average HPC for the biofilm bacteria was 6500 c.f.u./cm2 (2 days, 35 °C) or 29000 c.f.u./cm2 (8 days, 35 °C). High HPC values in samples B2a, B2b and B3a (representing biofilm samples at site 2 from block/unit pipes and biofilm samples at site 3 from block pipes, respectively) illustrated that the relevant sample sites had a higher probaboility of biofilm growth.