Abundance and composition of indigenous bacterial communities in a multi-step biofiltration-based drinking water treatment plant

Karin Lautenschlager, Chiachi Hwang, Fangqiong Ling, Wen Tso Liu, Nico Boon, Oliver Köster, Thomas Egli, Frederik Hammes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Indigenous bacterial communities are essential for biofiltration processes in drinking water treatment systems. In this study, we examined the microbial community composition and abundance of three different biofilter types (rapid sand, granular activated carbon, and slow sand filters) and their respective effluents in a full-scale, multi-step treatment plant (Zürich, CH). Detailed analysis of organic carbon degradation underpinned biodegradation as the primary function of the biofilter biomass. The biomass was present in concentrations ranging between 2-5×1015cells/m3 in all filters but was phylogenetically, enzymatically and metabolically diverse. Based on 16S rRNA gene-based 454 pyrosequencing analysis for microbial community composition, similar microbial taxa (predominantly Proteobacteria, Planctomycetes, Acidobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Nitrospira and Chloroflexi) were present in all biofilters and in their respective effluents, but the ratio of microbial taxa was different in each filter type. This change was also reflected in the cluster analysis, which revealed a change of 50-60% in microbial community composition between the different filter types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014



  • 454 pyrosequencing
  • Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP)
  • Biofilter
  • Drinking water
  • Microbial communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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